Churches and Communities Reach Out to Young Moms Through Playgroups
By Carren W. Joye
Young parents face unique challenges as they raise their children in today’s world. Unlike their own parents and grandparents, many young parents now live far away from their relatives and lack extended families and close friends on which to rely. Consequently, both moms and dads have quietly mobilized with military precision, many through the ministry of their local church, to form playgroups and parents’ groups in their neighborhoods. They have discovered that working together makes for less work and more support. This trend is re-inventing the old-style neighborhood that grandma remembers and giving local churches a unique opportunity to minister to these parents and children both within the church and in the community.
Through church-sponsored playgroups, members of the local church get to know each other better and to share their faith and experiences. The more time they spend together, the better they get to know each other and the more like a family the church becomes. In addition, a church grows when it contributes to the community and creates a place where people would want to be. As a result, local churches are discovering that ministering to young parents and their children actually benefits the church itself as much as it benefits the parents and children involved.
Through playgroups, the church family provides encouragement and help to young mothers who look to the church for the crucial support they need as they face today’s challenges. The church can provide not only free space for playgroups to meet, but also educational and spiritual programs as well as opportunities for service. Playgroups can be used as a real force to strengthen the moral and spiritual foundations of the home and family. Often, simple encouragement is enough to create a new outlook and enthusiasm that spills over into relationships with spouses and other facets of their lives.
“During my first year as a mom, our group encouraged me that what I was doing made a difference,” says Michelle Summers, mother of two sons in Alabama. “Sometimes a mom will lose sight of the bigger picture and feel that all she’s doing is wiping noses and settling squabbles. A group like this reminds you that mothering really matters and that what we do has eternal significance in our children’s lives.”
However, playgroups do not necessarily target mothers of young children exclusively; groups like these appeal to mothers of all ages and stages in life, from new moms to grandmothers. Indeed, many older women and grandmothers become involved in their community through local parents’ groups by mentoring the younger women, following the Titus 2:4 concept. Being able to contribute to the community makes the experienced mothers feel appreciated and worthwhile. They derive a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with helping others.
This applies to fathers as well because male role models are just as important to children as female role models. In fact, many fathers now stay home fulltime to raise their children, and they need the support system of playgroups just as much as stay-at-home moms do.
As I discovered when starting my own playgroup and researching for my book, A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Complete Guide to Playgroups, playgroups and parents’ groups provide crucial support systems to young women in the mothering phase of their lives and to young fathers who stay home to raise their children. Playgroups offer members a chance to connect with other parents, seek advice, and share experiences. Both mothers and fathers develop friendships in their playgroups by sharing interests and hobbies with each other. Indeed, playgroups provide a sense of belonging to stay-at-home parents, who normally would be home alone with their children most of the day.
“I belonged to a playgroup from the time my daughters were infants until they started kindergarten,” says Julie Heying, mother of a 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old twins in California. “Today, some of my cherished friendships are with women that I met while in the playgroup. I would not have survived the preschool years without God's help and this group of women.”
In addition to emotional and spiritual support, many playgroups extend practical assistance to their members. Many playgroups institute “in-a-pinch” emergency services and babysitting co-ops where parents exchange babysitting. This allows parents to run errands or attend to personal emergencies without having to worry about their children. Best of all, because the parents and children know each other from playgroup, they all feel comfortable in the babysitting situation. Having friends to count on in emergencies is important to any family, but especially to those without extended relatives nearby.
“My friends in playgroup helped me with my son during my difficult second pregnancy,” says Teresa Takac, mother of three in Florida. “They literally came in and did what needed to be done. My doctor advised me to stay off my feet, so I would attend playgroup and lie on the couch. It was the only break I got each week for several months. I was able to survive those months and to continue being a good mother to my son because of the support from playgroup.”
Stay-at-home parents, especially, need a regular break of a playgroup to relax and get out of the house. Children, too, need socialization. Weekly playgroups provide an enjoyable diversion where the children play with friends while their parents talk or where all members share a structured activity. Children learn valuable skills, such as how to share, follow directions and stay focused on a task. For families who do not want to consider preschool or a Moms Day Out program, a playgroup is a viable option.
Opening their doors to playgroups may be a church’s first step to making a real difference in the community, and not just to young mothers and fathers. Whether it’s a specific ministry to area parents or simply an open door policy to any local group in the community, a church can contribute significantly to the community by being available and supportive. After all, parenthood is a rewarding and exciting period in an adult’s life, but it can also be overwhelming and discouraging at times. Young parents, in particular, need the guidance of the church to train them in Biblical principles and parenting skills and to support them in the high calling of parenthood. These parents, their churches and the community can all join forces to make a real impact on those around them. They can do all this together in a local neighborhood playgroup.
About The Author: Name: Carren W. Joye Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.onlineplaygroup.com/ Carren W. Joye is the author of A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded five successful playgroups and helped start countless other playgroups around the world.