Here are some great thoughts from a contributor named Maura about how they get parents of older kids to attend a few RE events at their parish:
Our solution to getting parents of older students to attend has been to build their participation into an opening and closing session for the Jr. High schedule. Parents are asked to attend the first and last class of the year with their child during which we do a variety of activities that look ahead to or summarize what we did during the year. For example this year with our students focusing on the Person of Jesus and the Gospels, we began by displaying pictures of Jesus from various cultures, depicting various scripture stories. Then we asked everyone to look at all the pictures and stand by the one that was most like their image of Jesus. They then shared with the others who had made the same choice and with the whole group what that art work told them about who Jesus was. Then we did a few games that students and parents played with and against each other that were designed to help them learn more about Jesus, followed by some reflection questions. Towards the end I gave them a brief overview of what they would be covering during the year and then finally we prayed the litany of the Holy Name of Jesus together.
Throughout the evening students sit with their parents and their friends and their friends parents which seems to take some of the pressure off of everyone. Kids and parents alike seem to need that peer support.
In the evaluations we almost always get comments like “I didn’t think I would like this but we enjoyed it.” It was cool to see one comment this year from a kid who said how awesome his mom was. “I didn’t know she knew all that God stuff.” Across the board, parents had positive comments about the the depth of their children’s spirituality, as if it was a big discovery. We have about 75 – 80% participation in these gatherings which I see as a success. One parent who had avoided attending last year told me at the beginning of this year that they had come because her son’s friend had told her how enjoyable it was.