We recognize that this is an unusual and even unprecedented time to be doing ministry. This post pertains to more normal times, and you may not find it relevant in the next few weeks. However, we are also aware that, with many of us working from home, some people may have more time to read blog posts now than they usually do. We hope that you will be able to read this now and use its guidance at such a time as our activities return to normal.
We all deeply desire belonging—to be truly and deeply known by others. We know this is good for the children in our ministries. It’s why we are so intentional about calling them by the correct name, or making sure grown-up volunteers know them and greet them. I wonder, though, how much importance and emphasis we put on making sure the grown-ups of the children we serve feel they have a “place,” too.
A few years ago, my senior pastor asked staff leaders to create opportunities for intentional community within our ministry areas. We are a large, urban congregation in the second-largest metro area in our state. It is completely possible to attend worship on Sunday morning and not have meaningful connection to the other 600 worshipers. That’s a problem—and one we continue to work on.
One of the ways we endeavor to create meaningful connection among the parents and caregivers of the children in our Sunday morning programs is by hosting what we call “Parents’ Corner.” We set aside one entire classroom right in the middle of our other classrooms; emptied it of cold, metal folding chairs and heavy eight-foot tables; and instead filled it with rugs, couches, rocking chairs, wing-back chairs, a small table, a single-cup coffee maker, a dorm-size refrigerator, curtains, art, and soft lighting. On Sundays we bring in breakfast pizzas and assorted donuts and pastries. Regularly, this space is full—standing room only. Folks have gathered with their coffee, helped themselves to sustenance (because all good gatherings have food, am I right?), and perhaps even the Sunday paper. Here they can just “be.” Without their children present to draw their focus or attention, they can laugh, share struggles, ask questions, and seek commonality. They can be known, and know others are on the same journey.
Why do we do this? Primarily, because parents desperately need the support of one another. They need to be able to form friendships at church—and we need to help facilitate that. But we also do this because sometimes entry points such as this are a low-risk way that parents who may not otherwise attend can ease their way into the community. This has happened on more than one occasion in my context—where a parent who didn’t come at all began finding a place in Parents’ Corner, and now attends worship with the family.
Jesus offered a place for all. It is my hope and encouragement that you might find new and creative ways to offer the gift of place for your people, too.