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Experiments in Engaging Parents and Students…Together

Guest post by Danita Brick, Director of Student Ministries at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Jasper, Indiana. 

I’ve served on our church staff for four years. From the start, I've wanted to minister to parents of teens—teaching and encouraging them, walking alongside them and cheering while they take on the responsibility of being their kids’ spiritual mentors.

Attending a Sticky Faith conference in December, I came away with an even stronger desire to move in that direction, but I was still unsure how to add that to an already-full schedule. 

We recently made a 6-week shift in our midweek programming for students, so I made a courageous plan: What if we invited all the parents of our middle schoolers to come to our Wednesday night program with their son or daughter for a parent/student study? Great idea!  But what would we study?

Two days after I told our staff the idea, I received an E-Journal from FYI about the Sticky Faith Every Day Curriculumfree downloadable curriculum for an 8-week series that came with...(wait for it)… an at-home parent component. Perfect!

That same night during our middle school meeting, the students and I talked about life at home, communication with parents and family dinners. We read Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  I then asked, “Who does scripture suggest might be the best teachers to pass faith onto the next generation?”  They looked at their Bibles and squirmed a little.  Finally, one boy raised his hand and said, “Well, I don’t know if this is right…I mean, (pause), it doesn’t really make sense, but it kind of sounds like…parents?"

I then dropped the bomb that I was inviting their parents in for a series.  “Enthusiastic” does not exactly describe the mood in the room at that moment.  In fact, a better description would be “deer in headlights.” I asked them to encourage their parents to come. Then seeing their total disbelief, I quickly changed it to, “Well, please don’t try to talk them out of it.”

We've met for three weeks so far.  Each week, over half the students have a parent there. While the curriculum is originally designed for students to engage together at church and then take a Daily Guide and Family Ideas sheet home to the parents, I'm including the parents in the “at church” part.  This allows parents and their kids to talk through questions about themselves and their faith while we're together (with enough other adult leaders to guide and talk with the students who don't have a parent in the room). So far we’ve talked about Noticing God, Unplugging and Receiving God’s Grace (weeks 1-3 of the series).

Adults and students are encouraged to do the activities in the Daily Guide (provided with the curriculum) throughout the week.  I slightly modify the Family Ideas page to include ways to talk with each other about their individual Daily Guide experiences.

The main objective is to give parents and students a safe place and some guidelines for talking with each other. We’re finding this infinitely more valuable than trying to host a separate "training" for parents.  

One mom (who actually attends a different church) told me last Sunday that their pastor asked for praises.  Her daughter, a sixth grader, raised her hand and said, “I want to thank God that me and my mom have a place to go together on Wednesday nights to learn about God, and we have homework that lets us talk to each other about God every day.”

Now that is a win. Thanks, God. Thanks, Sticky Faith.

Danita Brick is Director of Student Ministries at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Jasper, Indiana. You can find her blog, Leave the Dishes, at danitabrick.com. She is married, has two grown children, and loves spending time with family and friends over a long meal around a dinner table.


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