Four keys to running your Parenting for Faith course
We’ve been there. Put on a course, advertised it widely, booked the hall, sorted the refreshments, hoped and prayed for people to come and then … it flops.
It can be so discouraging when you know what you are offering is fantastic stuff (which obviously we think the Parenting for Faith course is) but people just don’t come. Churches are busy places, people have busy lives and there are lots of things competing for our attention.
So we wondered what we could learn from course leaders about what made their courses go well? And this is what we’ve discovered.
There are four key things to think about.
Vision-casting. How are we selling the idea of the course to the church? Do people really understand what they are being offered or do they just think it’s another parenting course? How have we whetted their appetite and explained the key ideas?
Gatekeepers. Who are the influencers, the people who share and spread good news and ideas? These may be church or department leaders, people who run groups or just people in the congregation others listen to and who will gossip good news.
Advertising. How can you maximise the number of people who hear your invitation and hear it well?
Helping people find the time. Are there things we can do to make sure people can fit the course into their busy lives? Otherwise people may want to come but find they just can’t fit it in.
You don’t know what you don’t know! If people haven’t heard of the idea of spiritual parenting or realise they can do it, they may just assume this is another parenting course.
So how have course leaders cast a vision that helps them see why the Parenting for Faith course might be perfect for them?
- Using media: we have our own ‘advertising’ video which can be downloaded here. Some churches have used this American video as an introduction to the idea of spiritual parenting. One church used the five key tools videos (available on each key tool page, for example here) in the run up to a course to help whet appetites.
- Sharing research: Care for the Family have a useful summary of the research around the importance of parents and carers in sharing faith available here.
- Sharing stories: some course leaders have shared stories of how Parenting for Faith has impacted them or stories from other people, which could be using one of the videos from this website. Sharing stories is particularly helpful as it enables people to see what parenting for faith looks like for people just like them.
- Run an ‘Inspire’ session. This is a one-off, two hour session from the Kitchen Table Project that lightly introduces the idea of nurturing faith in the home, enabling people to explore the ideas before committing to the course.
Vision-casting can take time, so you may want to put off running the course while you share and drip-feed ideas.
Before advertising the course It is worth thinking about who are the people who will help to spread the news about your course to others, and getting them onside.
- A conversation with your church leader is always a good idea, explaining why the Parenting for Faith course is not just your average parenting course and why it fits with your church’s core vision for discipleship.
- Some course leaders have taken the time to invite members of staff and group leaders, for example taking the youth and children’s workers out for a coffee to give them a chance to understand what the course is before asking them to hand out the info to parents. Depending on your church, and how you plan to offer the course, gatekeepers may include toddler group leaders, outreach specialists and life group leaders too.
- Who are the influential parents and carers in your church? Who will spread good news to their friends? Why not approach them and see what they think about running the course and at the same time pick their brains about the best way to run it?
Advertising your course
While we offer a video and downloadable flyers to give out, there’s a lot more you can do to help get the message out to people!
- Give all the information people will need when you advertise the course: where and when, what will happen, how much it will cost, who is running it, who’s it for, how to sign up. Have flyers or something where all that is written down so people can take them away.
- Advertise well in advance and keep repeating the message. One church did a great presentation on a Sunday morning – but it was never repeated, so you only heard about the course if you were there that day. Perhaps if it had been recorded it could have then been shared on the church’s social media.
- Use all your church’s normal channels of communication: the notice-sheet, website, social media, Sunday notices, flyers handed out generally and to different groups. When you can link handing out flyers to a conversation or a presentation about the course.
- Write to parents and carers and other people you want to target: one church reported that they wrote to all 18 families individually, tailoring the letter to that family – and had 17 sign up, with the last family joining them in week 2!
Helping people find the time
Most families are time-poor, many with multiple commitments to meet each week. Our course leaders have been particularly creative in how they have planned courses to help busy parents and carers attend: we share the best ideas below!
- Maximising choice: some churches have run one course but several times during the week to give people a choice of when they can come or allowing one parent to stay at home with the kids while the other attends and then the other way round. These are often a daytime session repeated in the evening. The most complicated we know of, but also one with the biggest attendance, ran the course fortnightly: in week 1 twice, during the day and then in the evening, and in week 2 once in the evening for those who couldn’t get there the week before. You can get ideas of what others have done in this article: Different ways to run the course.
- Short and sharp: some time poor churches have found that people are happy to block out a weekend or two Saturdays to do the course when they couldn’t manage more regular commitments. This works particularly well if you can offer some sort of childcare to free people up.
- Replacing another regular commitment for a while. Where are people already gathering? It may be that you can simply use that time, for example running the course as a life-group for a term. One church simply changed their weekly kids club to a film club for a term and while that was running ran the course for the parents of the children who normally attended. Another ran the course while the teenagers were at their Sunday youth group, and another ran the course instead of the Sunday sermon once a month.
- Being virtual: some churches are now running the course either fully or partly online, many as a Facebook watch party. Some do this for all eight weeks, some do a mixture of face to face sessions and remote sessions. From the reports we’ve received, you have to work hard between sessions to be in touch with everyone and to encourage engagement, but you will be able to reach people who, for whatever reason, simply can’t get out to a face to face course. A variation on this, popular with groups that meet with young children or who don’t have long, is to watch the videos ahead of time, saving the discussions for when you are together.
- Incentivising them: food and babysitting will always help! Whether that’s offering supper to everyone or just having dinner ready to microwave for people coming straight from work, knowing that you won’t have to juggle cooking and getting to the course can be a gamechanger, as well as making you feel loved. Offering babysitters or a creche (subject to your church’s safeguarding practices of course) is also something that will make the course possible for some people.
What’s worked for you? We’d love to know so we can share your ideas and experiences with others. You can get in touch here.