Parish School – Getting the Parents Involved
A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project
June 2007Parish School – Getting the Parents Involved: As a way of connecting parents with the school and parish from the first day of class, consider this scenario: When people enroll their child in kindergarten, they are contacted by the pastor and invited in for a chat. He welcomes them to the school community and assures them that their child will receive a safe, well-rounded, academically sound, spiritually enhanced education over the coming years. He answers any questions they may have about the parish and school. Then he asks something from them. During the time their child attends the parish school, he requests three hours from them every week of the year. “I won’t be checking up on you,” he says, “but I ask that you commit three hours of every week for the good of your child, yourselves and the life of the parish.” The First Hour: The first hour is attendance at one of the weekend liturgies. It does no good to send a child to the school which includes school Masses, religious instruction and value formation if parents are not reinforcing this learning by their own religious practice, especially attendance at Mass each week as a family. Children of kindergarten age absorb a great deal from what is happening around them, especially the behavior patterns of their own parents. Going to church on a weekly basis makes an impression that will last a lifetime. Hour Number Two: The second commitment the pastor asks of the parents is to spend the equivalent of one hour a week involved in some activity, program, project or ministry associated with the school or parish. Some examples include coaching a school or parish team, reading at Mass, being a classroom aide, becoming active in the parent/teacher association, helping out with the yearly parish festival. This one-hour commitment to service and ministry could be done in clumps, more activity during one part of the year and less at another, but the requirement is the same; giving of one’s limited time to help out in the parish. It is through this involvement that parents learn about the parish and school, while others become acquainted with them as well. They also learn more about what is happening with their child’s formation through this direct involvement. The Final Hour: This final hour has to do with a financial commitment to the parish as a whole. Rather than considering the school a private institution of learning to which people pay tuition, the pastor points out that the parish contributes a portion of its own income as a way of maintaining a quality school program. The parents of this new student are asked to do the same. “Think of it this way,” the pastor might suggest. “When you start work on Monday morning, whether in the home or somewhere else, give the first hour of your weekly wage back to God. It is a way of returning a small portion of one’s income in appreciation for the blessings received throughout the week. Figure out what you make each hour of your work week and give the first hour of this back to God as a contribution to the parish. This, then, is what I ask as you begin your association with our school: one hour at church each week, one hour of involvement in some parish ministry or project, one hour of your weekly wage as a financial contribution to the parish. I can guarantee that you will gain much more than you give through this commitment to the parish and school.” This is not a fantasy. Fr. John Enzler, pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC, asks this of parents for every kindergarten student each year. It could work in your school or religious education program as well.