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The secret to getting parents to read your take home sheets.

Dear KidMin leaders: On behalf of the waste management industry, I would like to thank you for your continued use of the take home sheets. These unread parent communication tools fill the trash cans of many homes and church lobbies and provide job security for countless trash collectors. Let me guess... As much as you love the waste management industry, that's probably not what you have in mind when you hand out the take home sheets at the door. You're probably hoping that the parents are carefully reading every word on the sheet so that they know what their kid is learning at church and continue the faith conversation at home. But that's probably not happening, is it? Nope! In my previous post, I talked about why that is. (You can read that post here.) In short, parents of school-aged kids are bombarded with information and become immune to things like take home sheets. That doesn't necessarily mean the take home sheet is dead, though. Here's a scene from my house that could help your take home sheet break through the clutter: I'm standing in the kitchen, leafing through the pile of school papers from my kid's take home folder. There's a flyer from the PTA, there's a letter from the school superintendent, there's an order form for Scholastic Books, there's an information sheet about the upcoming field trip to the City Museum, and there's a dozen other papers from various people about various things. Some of the papers get tossed out with barely a glance. Some of the papers I scan through quickly looking for keywords such as "final notice," or "urgent," or "free candy." But some of the papers get my full and undivided attention. Which ones? The ones that are created by my kids. You see, mixed in with the tidal wave of forms and flyers are papers with stories and drawings from my kids. Stories about secret agent dogs. Drawings of unicorns with laser eyes. And I can't get enough of those! Here's the reality: the chances of me carefully reading forms and flyers is slim. But when I see something that my kid made, there's 100% engagement. Engagement that leads to conversation.
"Hey...where did you come up with this idea for a secret agent dog?"
"This drawing is crazy cool. How are the laser eyes powered? Is it battery or solar?"
This was my eureka moment. Why are we handing parents more information at the doors of our KidMin? The parents are (mostly) not reading the info and the info isn't leading to conversation or connection. Instead, why don't we make the take home sheet a canvas for kids to create on. Here's how we do that in the GO! curriculum: At the end of every large group lesson, we give kids time to respond to God. With their take home sheet in hand, they can move to one of 4 stations: prayer, art, writing, or Bible reading. The take home sheet includes information about this week's lesson (front side) as well as next week's lesson (back side.) But the majority of space is open for the kids to write prayers, draw pictures, journal, or reflect on Scripture. (You can see what a version of the GO! take home sheet looks like here.) Now, instead of info overload, parents get a window into the heart and mind of their kid. A window that leads to soul-stirring, faith-filled conversations. Think about it. Which of these would be more engaging to you? An info sheet that simply says, "Today your kid learned that Jesus grew in wisdom and favor by spending time in His Father's house."
OR
A written prayer with poorly spelled words from your 7 year old that says, "Dear God, my heart splodes with love for you every time I think bout you. Thank you for beeng my friend forever." And next to that is a drawing of either the Holy Spirit or possibly a sharknado (it's hard to tell.) Let me help you with the answer...it's the second one! Do you think a parent is going to throw that away before reading it? No way! That's car conversation. That's refrigerator material. That's sacred paper to a parent. Of course, you don't want to put all of your parent communication eggs in one take home sheet basket. Next week (as promised) I'll tell you about two of the most effective communication methods for reaching parents during the week. So stay tuned...

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