Ahhhh, the excitement of a September launch: kids moving up to new groups on Sunday, fresh after-school clubs or midweek groups starting up, the satisfying feeling of finally getting enough team to start that new tots group. September can feel like the culmination of months and months of dreaming, planning and hard work.
But sometimes it feels like the parents and carers we work with seem to be on a different page. They can be slow with enthusiasm or paperwork, hesitant to commit or stressed with questions and confusions. How can we get parents and carers to jump on board with our September launch?
One of my favourite things to do when I was a kid was to go to the waterpark. Sometimes getting on a waterslide was straightforward.
You sit down, launch off and smoothly ride the water to the end. Or sometimes you sit down, launch off and your inner tube flips you over almost immediately. All of a sudden what looked like a promising ride is now a dramatic, out-of-control spiral as you find yourself going down a ride upside down and backwards with your inner tube riding you down the water.
In working with parents, I have learned that many parents find September to be a waterslide-like spiral of activity where they barely manage to keep their head above the chaos.
Their children are navigating loss and change, anxiety and stress. Their whole family is getting used to new schedules, new friendships, new leaders and new expectations. Every new thing their children are involved in requires more paperwork and emails, and new ways of supporting their children through it.
So when I come along with my new launch, wanting their attention and excitement, they can barely hear me over the roar of the water in their frantic waterslide of life.
If we want to be a place where parents and carers can flourish in their roles, and feel comfortable and confident to disciple their children at home, then we need to position ourselves in a slightly different way.
Here are a few things to consider when working with parents in the first few weeks of September:
Maybe don’t launch in September
I know, I know, that sounds crazy, but I’m naturally lazy. Why launch when everything else is launching? When everything else in a family’s world is clambering for attention and time?
I’m tired of competing with all the other change to get parents to notice my new thing. Rather than launch straight away, why not send out something in July saying: “Hey parents and carers, we love you and are so looking forward to welcoming your children into this new afterschool club.
We know that September is crazy, with so much to adjust to. Your kids may be tired as they cope with all the changes, and we know that getting into a new rhythm as a family takes time. After half-term we’ll be launching this club, on this day.
We’d love to see your children there. Don’t worry about any paperwork now, we’ll get in touch a few weeks before to open sign-ups. Just save the time in your children’s schedule and don’t think about it any more. You have enough on your plate in September.
We’ll be praying for you! Let us know if we can support, help, or encourage you and your family in any way during this exciting new season.”
If you do launch in September, make it easy
I know it seems ridiculous, but sometimes filling out an entire form just feels a bit too overwhelming for parents. What are the easy wins we can do to reduce the amount of paperwork and responses demanded for parents?
Often it isn’t their lack of interest that is the problem, just their lack of attention and ability to multitask. One ministry I heard of sends out an email that says: “This is a permission slip for the year.
If you agree just send back the word ‘Yes’.” They had a 100 percent response rate. A parent can type the word yes in a second. Follow a link and fill out a form? It goes on the pile of ‘Things I have to do but might not get around to’. What are easy wins to make life easier for parents?
Support them spiritually
Parents are used to being used by lots of organisations for the sake of their children. Sports clubs want money and volunteering, schools want homework done and paperwork filled out, on and on. Let’s be a place that tells parents: “I see you and am here for you.”
Maybe send out a text to parents every week in September saying: “We know September can be hard. We have a group of people who are dedicating to praying for parents and carers throughout September.
If you have anything that you would like us to specifically pray for, text us back and we will. You can make it through, we are cheering you on!”
Support them as they disciple their children
Over and over, parents are faced with difficult situations with their children in a new season: anxiety, loss, change, fear. We can be the place that resources parents to cope with that new season and help their kids through it.
Have resources available in the back of church for parents to look through or use. Put up short ‘equipping’ posts on social media for parents to grab onto on topics they are facing.
Maybe do a sermon or session in kids’ groups that address these topics and invite parents and carers to join in. Serve parents in this season rather than try to get them to serve us.
If we can learn to really hold and encourage families in a new launch season, then they can emerge from it able to engage with the new things we want to launch because they will be ready and able. We can be the one space that says: “Be slow, you have time, there is no rush, we will be here.”