Over the past two months our family has visited two churches close to our home. Having recently moved into the area we have tried to find a church home where three things are present :
1) Strong Bible-based teaching
2) A well-run children’s ministry
3) A sense of connection
The purpose of this post is not to debate church issues but rather to highlight the importance of communication and follow-through. At both churches we were asked to complete visitor cards which would allow the church to follow-up. We indicated to both churches that we desired further information about the church and would welcome feedback. Neither church has done so! However at one church we were given a complimentary coffee and biscuit and at the other we were told there was a visitors’ lounge where we could enjoy a cuppa.
Now, I’m not one to turn my nose up at a cup of coffee, especially if its free! However I would have expected an email at the very least from each church expressing a welcome and giving further information. What they need to know is this : Personal communication (and therefore relationship) is far more important than a free cup of coffee!
This experience had me wondering; what do we do as a school to ensure that community is built, personal connections are built and parents who show an interest in the school are followed up?
A speaker at a conference I attended a few years ago made the comment that schools are the new parishes. I believe this to be true as our society becomes increasingly secular. People need more than ever to feel connected in meaningful relationships, to be part of something bigger than themselves and to know that their contribution matters. Schools can play an important role in making this happen.
In fact, I believe schools should be making this happen. Initiatives such as community outreach in which families are involved, regular and open communication, parent socials and other strategies are important. Connected parents are loyal parents and the school’s retention of families will be higher than in those schools in which parents are merely seen as inconveniences.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation makes these points about parent connection in schools :
- When families are stronger, they are better able to support their children’s success in school.
- Schools are stronger when families are stronger.
- Schools have a distinct opportunity to work in partnership with families in ways that strengthen them.
- Communities benefit and are perceived to be strong when they have strong schools
Our school is fortunate in having a person on staff dedicated to the admissions process. She follows up families who have shown interest in the school, organises campus tours and ensures that the families receive a warm welcome to the school. Once the child is enrolled in the school the responsibility falls to the class teacher, principal and parent representatives to follow-up and ensure the family is connected into the school. This process is very important and I believe should be a priority in every school.
This issue is not simply a school one. Our society is becoming increasingly fragmented and our children are paying the price. Schools have an absolutely critical role to play in helping families (children and parents) find connection through meaningful relationships. This is not something we should only pay lip service to!
What is your school doing to connect with new and existing families? Please share your ideas in the comments.