5 Ways to Engage Young Families During Back to School Season

You know engaging young families in your community is important, but what does that look like? One of the most effective ways to build relationships with young families is by syncing with their priorities and schedules. Parents plan vacations around these nine months every year. Kids measure their maturity in grades as well as years. Families have completely different needs than emerging adults, singles, seniors, and other demographics do—how do you serve them?

We’ve put together a list of five practical ways your church can specifically serve young families in your community:

1. School supply drive for low-income families

Each fall, low-income families are met with the same budgetary challenge: school supply lists. As their kids get older, the list of materials they have to buy gets longer, and parents have to make greater sacrifices to equip their kids for school—or else risk sending their kids unprepared.

Your church can help these families by providing them with the supplies they need. A school supply drive is a great way for your congregation to support families and show that your church is a place that understands and cares about them. You could ask your congregation to bring the supplies themselves or do a special offering so church staff can purchase them. You can run it just like a food drive, but for school supplies.

Work with local schools to get supply lists and either let them distribute supplies as needed, or host a public event to distribute them yourselves. Schools will have insight into who may need help, and they have the right relationships to use discretion.

2. Plan your kick-off around back to school

Back to school comes right at the end of the famous “summer slump” in church attendance. For families with kids in school, it can feel like fall is when the year really begins. You can capitalize on that momentum by planning your annual church kick-off around the beginning of the school year.

During the summer, there can be some confusion about what programs kids are supposed to be in. Did they “graduate” when the school year ended? “Do I call my child an eighth grader, or a freshman?” Starting programs at the beginning of the school year makes it really clear who belongs in what age group. Plus, families have to be back from vacation by then, so if you plan your programs around back-to-school season, you’re more likely to start with greater attendance.

3. Put on a volunteer work day at your local school

Schools rarely have the resources they need to tackle all the improvements and projects they want. When people volunteer to help, they’re often eager to accept it—even if you can’t offer an elite team of specialized workers.

Landscaping and painting can help kids and staff feel better about the school they walk into every day, but it easily falls by the wayside. A single maintenance worker or groundskeeper may not have time to do more than basic maintenance, but an army of volunteers can make short work of big improvements—like planting shrubs or giving the gym a fresh coat of paint.

With a handful of people who know what they’re doing, your church could make more significant improvements, like installing new playground equipment, updating signage, or renovating the teachers’ lounge.

Your volunteers can also serve the school by baking goods for staff or preparing care packages. Investing in school staff can increase their morale, and through them benefit hundreds of kids—which is a spectacular way to build relationships with families in your area. Find out what your local schools need help with, and then do it.

4. Have your staff volunteer in classrooms

You often don’t need a particular expertise to be helpful in a classroom: you just need to be a responsible adult who can follow instructions and support the plan teachers already have in place. When you volunteer in classes, you’re freeing teachers to focus on kids that need extra help.

Volunteering can take many shapes. You might be asked to work with small groups of kids or individuals who need extra help or attention, or you might be asked simply to provide more supervision. Depending on the school, you could also serve as an after-school tutor, or a supervisor for lunch, recess, study hall, or detention. However you help, you’re developing relationships with kids in your community, and by extension, their families.

Some schools will require a more rigorous application process than others, but be prepared for at least a basic background check.

5. Encourage teens in your church to tutor

The average kid is often better equipped to be a tutor than an adult. Curriculum, standards, and methodologies are constantly changing, and since each year of school builds on the last, older kids are likely to be more familiar with the material younger kids are working through. If you have responsible teens who are willing to offer their services, tell your congregation. You’ll serve the families in your church, and if the program works well, you can even extend your tutoring service to families in the community who don’t go to your church. A church that’s helping kids get better grades can’t help but attract young families.

Now is the time to reach young families. Are you ready?

Back-to-school season is the opportune time to engage the young families in your church and neighborhood. If you do this right, you’ll bring in families that love worshiping with you for the rest of the year.

 

 

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.

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