School Forum: Step 3. Opening Communication
Step 3. Opening Communication
This next step focuses on sharing information with the community in a way that makes the purpose and parameters of your event(s) clear. The goal is to minimize misconceptions among participants and to build trust before the event(s).
If your school community is already open or accustomed to honest discussions of faith and science questions, less groundwork may be necessary to enable fruitful engagement. However, to the degree that there are anxieties, suspicions, and strongly held positions around faith and science topics, work will be needed in advance to frame the event in the right way.
Once you have decided how to begin in terms of event scope and topic, decide who will oversee communications about the event. Begin engaging with parents and other stakeholders early. Before announcing the event itself or a specific topic, initiate conversation with parents about the school’s intention to create a communal context for learning about faith and science questions together.
Consider how you will:
- Impart the purpose for creating this communal learning context and clarify the kind of engagement you are looking for (as worked out in Step 1: Principles of Engagement). Consider whether the way this purpose is articulated communicates faith or fear: Does it sound as if the goal is to remove a nuisance or to seek truth together?
- Name the event or event series. Holding a “debate,” for instance, primes people to expect sides (i.e., winners and losers). Hosting a “forum” may open more space for conversation.
- Address particular fears or concerns that are likely to arise in your community. For instance, do you need to reassure parents that this is not the preface to some abandonment of your school’s theological identity or a step towards purging dissidents?
- Provide space for preliminary feedback and conversation. If particular parents have questions and concerns, who will be available to meet and talk with them?
It may be helpful to take a look at the activity Communicating Goals, which includes some examples of possible letters to parents. Consider using one or more of the following videos as part of your initial communication with parents: