Top Tips on Involving Families

Living in the West, it’s easy to be individualistic in our approach to our students, forgetting that for many of them, especially those from Eastern parts, their whole identity is bound up with the family to whom they belong. How important, then, to make sure we make every effort to engage with their families. Below are Ten Top Tips on involving families.

  • Take an interest in a student’s family situation in the UK from day one. When you register a new student for classes, why not ask if they’re here with family and ask about any children they mention (click here for more ideas on placing students).  You may be the first person in the UK to show such an interest. If it’s appropriate, mention other activities your church offers that family members may like to attend. Why not have leaflets available about things like youth groups or toddler groups to give out at this time. If your current registration set-up doesn’t allow for this do think about how you could tweak the process. This time with the new student is invaluable.
  • Make the most of class activities that involve students talking about family. Listen carefully to what they say and take an interest. For example you might find that someone’s spouse works at the same company as someone from your church and you could link them up.
  • Organise class outings at a time when you think spouses, parents, children would be able to attend. For example, could you arrange to meet in the local park for a picnic on a Saturday?
  • Visit students in their homes if possible. If you’re unsure how to initiate this, festivals can be a good starting point. For example, could you take a cake to a Muslim family when they’re celebrating Eid? Seeing students in their family context is so important for getting to know them and for many internationals they miss the fact that over in the UK people don’t just ‘drop in’ to see them. Could you think about inviting students and their families to your home?
  • Take an interest in major life events. If a student or spouse of a student has a baby, could you offer to visit and take a gift? Or if you find out that a student’s father-in-law has died, send a card to the spouse, even though they don’t come to your classes. When internationals are bereaved, it is so hard for them to be such a long way from home. Ask God to open your eyes to other practical ways you can show love.
  • Why not have an ‘open morning’ when families are invited to see what goes on during a typical session of language classes. Or at the end of the year, organise a prize-giving where you honour students for various achievements and have a tea afterwards.
  • Make the most of Christian resources for children.  As you get to know individual families better could you give them a children’s Bible to read with their children? (This might of course end up being the children reading to their parents depending on the student’s reading ability in English). Could you even think about running a storytime session for students and their children during which you read from a children’s Bible each time? The Jesus Storybook Bible is available in a Read-Aloud Edition with lovely big pictures for reading to a group.
  • Think of ways to involve the wider church in your mission to serve whole families. Prayerfully consider how you can link up church members with student families. Could you offer a Conversation Partner scheme whereby you invite members of your church to offer an hour a week in English conversation to a student or a student spouse?
  • Work with your church to make the most of family events and ensure that they’re accessible to international families. For example, invite your students and families to any family services your church organises and perhaps even arrange for them to have lunch in British homes afterwards. Coming to a church service can be daunting so you could offer to meet them outside the building beforehand or pick them up from their home.
  • Don’t let Christmas and Easter pass you by without organising something for the whole family. This could be a Christmas party with games, food and a presentation of the Christmas story. Or perhaps there are people in your church who could cook a Christmas dinner for your students and their families? Or it may simply involve you inviting your students and their families to events your church is already putting on such as a family carol service or Christmas craft event. Make it your aim to share something of the message of Christmas or Easter with your class families at these times.