Young families in your church: Creating spaces to gather

Connecting young families at church by creating spaces to gather | Sparkhouse BlogThis is the first blog post in a series about ministry to young families, including how to serve new parents, many of whom have not been active in church since they were children or youth. Our next blog post in this series will be published on Monday, September 17.

In the midst of our education wing, now relegated to storage, is the former crib room of our church. For decades, parents brought their infants here for their Sunday morning naps. There, they were safe and loved, meeting the needs of many generations of young families. But, over time, use of the crib room declined. Changing demographics? Shifts in cultural expectations? Whatever the cause for change, in order to best serve young families, we need to examine and understand what they are looking for in church today.

Life changes prompt desires and needs

For many adult Christians, the birth of a child, and desire to have them baptized, prompts parents to return to or find a church home. Yet this is often just a matter of ritual. It is as their children approach school age that more families begin to make actively participating in church a significant part of their routine. Some of this has to do with the nature of this season of life; even the simple shifting of a naptime alters calendars significantly. It also has to do with what we as a church offer our young families. Certainly, the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of families of babies and toddlers are there. So, how do we as ministry leaders and congregational families meet them? How do we connect with a group of people who are in this transitional phase in their faith lives, with the reality and challenges of constantly changing needs?

Key considerations for churches

There are some key considerations in meeting the desires and needs of these young families: recognizing the importance of flexibility in incorporating parents and young children into church structure, offering opportunities for them to connect with people who are in a similar season of life, and creating space – literally and figuratively – for them to take ownership of their community, safe to express their needs and hopes.

The good news in our congregation is that the crib room is going to be put back to work, but without cribs. Better storage areas have been found, and we’re working with our young families on creating a space to gather. Across the hall from the nursery, parents with older babies and toddlers are given an opportunity to gradually separate from their children while connecting with parents who are in a similar phase in their lives. Rocking chairs and a safe space for infants allow parents who want to visit with other parents while with their children a chance to do so.

When it came right down to it, our parents didn’t necessarily want more time apart from their children, but they did want a chance to connect with others. And, we’re happy as a church to create that space for them, to give them an opportunity to gather in community, and to develop a feeling of trust and security, of home, in our church.

 

Interested in learning more about connecting with young families? See how our Frolic Family resources complement your existing ministry activities!

Author Jenia Strom | Sparkhouse Blog
Jenia Strom
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Jenia Strom is the director of children & family ministries at a United Methodist church in south Minneapolis. There, she is passionate about creating intergenerational experiences and helping children to be involved in and excited about worship. She and her husband have two daughters and a dog, and together they enjoy exploring their community and traveling throughout the country and the world.

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