This is the second blog post in a series about ministry to young families, including how to serve new parents. Our next blog post in this series will be published on Monday, September 24.
Adults who are anticipating a birth, planning an adoption, or are working with a fertility clinic need the emotional support of caring people. Faith communities are a wonderful place for that support to occur. Intentionally finding new parents takes a gifted investigator with a big heart and a bigger smile. So let’s start at the very beginning …
A: Always be looking and acknowledge God’s presence
Always be looking for singles and couples that are pregnant or are talking about starting a family. It has to happen every day in every way. Older adults, faith formation leaders, nursery attendants, pastors/staff, and pastoral care folks may know about major life happenings with people in your church. I’ve been known to intentionally roam through the post worship crowd and ask, “So what are the plans to bring me job security through more kids?" Everyone would laugh and as a bonus, I would get a hint at where couples were.
Remember that there are sometimes some very sad stories around the topic of trying to have children. My own daughter has been through three miscarriages, one full-term birth where the child died in a few hours, and a preemie. Adults trying fertility may run from a Mother’s Day sermon about babies. Listen carefully to these stories. Acknowledge God’s presence and pray right then and there with the expectant parent(s).
B: Be aware and Bible class
Be aware of community programs where parents-to-be and new parents congregate. Community centers, early childhood and family education centers, public libraries, daycare centers, and doctors’ offices will often pass out brochures that include information about the spiritual growth of a child. Visit those places and ask if there is a place for community information and if there's a way that you can provide support. Use language that focuses on faith, hope, love, and spiritual growth rather than religious denominational expectations.
Provide an “Expectant Parents Bible Class.” Offer the class often and include invitations throughout church communications. Four weeks serves as a suitable length, particularly if you have a goal to help parents gain connections with others. Send everyone home with some basic songs and stories from the Bible and a child’s “first” Bible such as the Frolic First Bible.
C: Connect often and cement the relationship
Connect often with parents-to-be and new parents. Time for families with little ones goes moment-by-moment and is full of challenges. Use texts, emails, and the telephone. Text may be the fastest (and most commonly accepted) way to communicate, but there is nothing like hearing a sympathetic and encouraging voice when you have just changed your 12th diaper for the day. If no one answers, leave an upbeat message and try next week.
This is a great time for home visits. Plan the visit with the family so they don’t feel surprised when their entire life is a constant changing kaleidoscope. If relationships were built in the expectant parent Bible class, perhaps one of the parents from there with a baby may be able to visit the new parents. This cements the relationship and offers hope to the new parents.
Faith communities offer a unique opportunity to connect parents and their children during their lifelong faith journeys. Relationships that have the potential to last lifetimes. Finding these expectant parents is the first step.