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.
Families with infants are a very special population in the church body. New caregivers can often find these early months of parenthood exciting and exhausting. Adjusting to a total life, as precious as it is, can sometimes breed a variety of unexpected feelings: isolation, discombobulation, inadequacy, and fear. Here are some simple things a church can provide to help ease these feelings and provide a place for new families to flourish:
Consider ways you can welcome a new baby into your church family. By celebrating the birth/fostering/adoption of new life, we’re also demonstrating love and support for their parents. Perhaps it’s feasible to have a welcome basket or packet? If not, maybe a welcome letter with information enclosed about how to navigate their return to church when it’s time. Where should they sit? Who can they call if they need spiritual support, prayer, or advice? Extending a first “We’re so excited to meet you!” note can go a long way in cherishing a new family.
Another way to show love and support for parents is to create and maintain solid health and safety practices in our nursery environments. Parents are often understandably cautious when leaving their little darlings with others. It can help ease their minds to know that you do background checks on nursery workers, sanitize toys and equipment, have a secure sign-out system, and wash hands faithfully.
When new parents have a community that they know loves and supports them, it becomes easier to come to church with their littles. Many churches have found success matching up expectant parents with mentors or peers who can provide support and connection even before the baby arrives. Small groups, studies, parenting classes, and even pediatric first aid/CPR classes can all spark relationships that can combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Here’s a tip: take a moment to experience your worship services through the eyes of a parent with a newborn. Start at your parking lot and walk all the way through. Where are the problematic areas? Doors that are hard to open with full arms? Hard-to-maneuver hallways? Spaces that are created to honor and welcome families with babies should be clean, well-kept, and facilitated with loving people to assist. Inclusive environments consider the needs for parents to sit and gather belongings, mothers to easily nurse their babies, and fathers to also change diapers.
When Christians celebrate and accommodate families with small children, we are opening the door for yet another generation of Christ-followers. Providing safety, community, and space is a tangible way to show God’s love, and a beautiful way to create a welcoming, inclusive culture of worshippers.