At the start of the year we held a parent reception at the launch of a new year of Student Life Groups.
My brief was fairly simple..."Create an environment to allow parents to connect with ministry staff and each other, hear the vision for the year ahead and pray for their students"
My budget was around <$1 per person and I had about 24hrs to pull it together.
Some of my team were convinced that we need to provide a snack (preferably cookies) for parents. My reluctance was that to make cookies or cupckaes look appealing you need a lot (either quantity or budget) and then you are often left with a ton of excess food.
We had hot weather at the time of this event (thanks SoCal) so I landed on a simple soft-drinks reception outside. Attendance for these type of events are difficult to predict but excess drinks can either be returned or stored for future use.
I borrowed some kiddie pools form childrens' ministry, filled them with ice and added bottled soft drinks. We made centerpieces using balloons left over from another event. I bought all those soft drinks that people love but never buy (people went nuts over an ice cold coke in a glass bottle) which made it a pleasant treat for parents on a warm evening.
Add in lots of cheap bottled water, some up-lighters, chilled music and some grade signs made out of photographs of students (frames borrowed from adult ministries) and you have a reception.
The highlight was parents gathering up in groups based on their students grade and praying for our ministry, for their students relationship with God and for the year ahead. It was super powerful.
Here's a few guidelines I loosely stick to for this kind of event...
1. Keep it simple - you don't need to put on an elaborate song and dance just create something that appears professional and thought through.
2. Keep it short - parents are the busiest people I know, acknowledge that and don't keep them longer than they want to stay.
3. Show you care - make it heartfelt, be ready to work the crowd and be available not just for formal questions but be personal.