My secret strategy for involving parents in the children’s RCIA process is fourfold. I promise that if you follow these four steps, you will improve the level of parent involvement in children’s RCIA.
1. Talk to parents in person. The very first step is to sit down, face to face, and talk with at least one of the parents. It makes all the difference in the world, if you have this conversation in person, rather than talking on the telephone or sending a letter to describe parish expectations for RCIA. It takes a lot of time to meet with each family, but it is well worth it!
During your initial discussion, you’ll talk with parents about their child’s faith formation history and what it is they are seeking for their child. Of course, you’ll do all this with a spirit of gracious hospitality and you’ll express the Church’s joy that they are asking for baptism for their child. Then, you’ll emphasize the importance of parental involvement in the RCIA by cover the following points:
- Be kind, clear, and unapologetic about your expectations for parent involvement. Do you expect a parent to come to every formation session or just once a month? Explain the importance of parents in the rites and how this role is dependent upon their presence throughout the process.
- Explain why it is so important for parents to be involved in the process. Explain how the Church feels strongly that parents are the primary catechists of their children. Explain how this is an important journey of faith and the Church wants parents to accompany their children on the journey.
- Offer childcare for younger siblings or, if the ages of the children permit, include siblings in intergenerational formation sessions.
2. Be flexible. The second part of the secret formula is to be flexible and not too demanding. Although you want to be firm in your expectations, you also want to use your best pastoral judgment. Sometimes life is too complicated and parents simply cannot be involved. Other times, if we are willing to change or adapt the process, we can accommodate the needs of families with children.
For example, one parish in Indianapolis always did RCIA on Thursday nights. However, many of the parents worked in the restaurant industry. Thus, Thursday night was impossible! So, they changed their RCIA to Saturday morning so that parents could participate in sessions with their children.
3. Be welcoming. One of the most significant and powerful signs of welcome for a parent is to include all their children and not expect them to make arrangements for childcare. First, some can’t afford childcare. Second, some want their younger children to be with them. Just yesterday I talked with a young mother who chose a parish specifically because she felt her young daughter was more welcome there than at another parish. Yes, there are certainly times when it’s not appropriate for young children to be at a session. In those cases, refer to point 2. Be flexible.
Another way to make parents feel welcome is to offer food and beverages. A cup of coffee or a bottle of water with a little snack can help energize any bedraggled parent. Plus, it’s just plain nice!
4. Give it a try. For those parents who resist coming or argue that they are too busy to come, ask them to give it a try for one month. If after a month, that don’t see the value in coming, then re-negotiate. Most often, after participating in the faith formation of their child, even the most reticent parent has had a change of heart.
After you’ve implemented this fourfold process for increasing parent involvement in children’s RCIA, send us an email here at TeamRCIA and let us know the results.
8 thoughts on “Four strategies guaranteed to get parents involved in their children’s RCIA process”
I know this senario does not work for everyone, but we have had great success in including parents and other siblings in everything we do with RCIA. They know from the first interview that they are an integral part of their childs faith formation. They are invited to attend all of the sessions – even reluctant parents come around as the child begins to lead them or draw them in. It becomes a family affair. We see the families participate in the Sunday liturgy then go over to the Family Center for a light breakfast followed by the sessions. It seems to be working very well. Yes there are times when they are not present but as we move further into the process those times become less and less. I think that this is a sure sign that something is happening with the whole family.
Elaine, this is a fabulous scenario! I completely agree with you that involving the entire family is ideal. And, I also agree that you are reading the “sign” correctly that something special is happening with the whole family. Good to know that parishes are using this family-based approach.
We have a (pretty much) fully implemented process for children/teens, that begins with Family Inquiry. Weekly Family Sessions make all the difference! Parents share with us later that they realize their own conversion, their own readiness, was what made their family stronger- and able to choose a life of faith- far beyond “First Communion.” For those that stick with it, we see them years later, week after week, still walking the walk with their children.
Lisa, I’m so glad to hear your story. I’m more and more convinced that family-based RCIA with children is the way to go. Sounds like it’s conversion happening in your parish! Do siblings of all ages come to your Family Sessions?
This is a wonderful resource. For us, apart from setting expectations on the first day, we get the parents engaged and excited about the program. Before class starts, we talk to each child and parent about how they are doing & really get to know them: sports, hobbies, work, family, etc. We always remind them to “participate, don’t anticipate” and that “we live what we learn.” We also try to keep the discussion interesting for all ages. We use examples from Spongebob to teen music to workplace-related ones.
We are blessed to have very supportive parents and families. We never had any problem with parents and yes, since we relate to all ages, we welcome other family members. Sometimes, we also do breakout sessions, too (adults & teens/kids).
Wow, Adrian, it sounds like you have a wonderful, inviting and flexible process, i.e. you welcome all family members. Keep up the good work and give us some more good ideas for engaging kids of all ages, and their parents!
I’d really like to get in touch with one or more of those who have implemented Family Sessions, to have an idea of what we might work toward in our parish. Would any of you be willing to share how you have begun and then built into it, how it’s structured to have even siblings present, how many catechists you have, what extended team members there are, etc.?
Hi Mary Kay,
I have done family sessions in my previous parish and am about to start again in my present parish. We just began meeting with parents and kids together and invite sponsor families to join. We meet in intergenerational group, but do split into various age groups during some of the sessions. I like to have a catechist for each age group (parents, younger and older children) when it’s possible. It does take awhile to build the team. Friends on the Way is a great resource for family sessions.
You just have to plunge in and start! Let me know if you want to talk more! Rita