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An ApPARENT Plan: 5 Ways to Engage Parents During Sunday School
By ISJL Education Fellow Isaac Gamoran
It's nine AM, and Sunday school has officially started. Parents just waved a final goodbye to their little ones, and they realize that they have a few hours free! They nod at a few other families, mutter some short-winded words in the hallway, and make a beeline towards the exit. As they swing the door open, you can’t help but ask yourself the question: “What if there was just some way to keep parents there?”
It might seem overly optimistic, but hear me out: there are all sorts of approaches to keep parents present during religious school! From guest speakers and bagel brunches to book clubs and movie screenings—the possibilities for adult activities are endless. Below are five winning ways to keep parents in the synagogue on Sundays.
1. A Morning Call to Action
First of all, this window of time is the perfect opportunity to give parents time in their packed schedules to make a difference in the community. You could have parents prepare sandwiches for those in need, go out into the community through events or tours, or even engage in an open dialogue on what issues they care about most. The point here is to turn the parents’ light bulbs on and energize them to take action!
2. Sunday Screenings
With time to finally relax, parents might not want to do anything on Sunday morning but sit and watch Netflix. Why not use that time to turn the synagogue into a miniature movie theater? This could be a weekly or monthly screening built around a theme for the month or for the year. It will never fail as an entertaining way to provide a program that gets parents to stay in the building!
3. Class for Congregants
Yes, you heard that right. School isn’t just for the kids! If you are looking for something more involved than a screening, your community could offer classes for parents! Maybe a member of the clergy teaches a value from the Talmud, or a local historian in the congregation offers a lecture. Beyond those in the synagogue, there are all sorts of special speakers that can stop by: local representatives, musicians, storytellers, and actors, to name a few. Oprah or Ellen might be preoccupied, but there are surely some great alternatives!
4. Temple Art Gallery
Lesson #1 for keeping parents in the building: give the group something to look at! An art gallery is the perfect way to appeal to parents. With designs by students at the synagogue or by local artists, this does not need to be the most expensive art gallery out there. Something as simple as a bulletin board with the children’s creations can serve the perfect purpose. As long as you enjoy seeing it, the parents will too! Make sure it rotates with new work on a regular basis.
5. Munchies and Mingling
Parents might not realize it, but religious school is the perfect time to make new friends! Put a table in the social hall with bagels, lox, and shmear, and see what happens. Odds are you will begin a new recurring tradition called “The Bagel Bar”, with parents spending the whole morning schmoozing. After all, who doesn’t love chatting over food?!
Use all of these simple strategies and many more to get parents to close the door and stay awhile!