One of the first ways I connected with First Congregational Church was Wednesday night dinners. My three year old, Isaac, looks forward to eating dinner at the church each week. He loves to sit with Tom and Patrice Ott, Toby Haughey and other friends. He especially likes the end of the serving table that usually holds cookies, cake or ice cream.
I love watching my son interact with friends of all ages. Our church has been a place where I have found support and love as a parent of a toddler. Parenting is a mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausting journey. One night a week, I got to have a break. I didn’t have to think about what to make for dinner. Other people wipe Isaac’s face, ask him about what he did at Garden of Dreams Child Care during the day and just love on my son.
Wednesday night dinners are an example of how our church can build strong families. We feed many, many people from the community. Attendees from both services in our faith community attend. Families with children can connect with one another. The sound of little feet and laughter fill the Courtyard.
The Church has the opportunity to build strong families that can greatly influence a child’s life long term. Hosting space such as Wednesday night dinners, provides natural opportunity for church members to take an active role in building strong, resilient families. There are no lesson plans to prepare. It isn’t “children’s ministry.” You don’t have to have special training or certain spiritual gifts to participate in this ministry. You offer yourself, your presence and your love. You show up.
In the Battle Creek community, a group of service providers who work with families with young children convenes each month. We have been talking about five specific ways that we can help build strong families. As we have been discussing these, I have been encouraged by the opportunity that our church has to truly embrace these five ways of building strong families.
The Church can:
1. Build parental resilience by helping families exercise flexibility and develop inner strength.
2. Assist parents in nurturing social and emotional competence as they give children teach their children to effectively communicate and interact to build positive relationships.
3. Host space for parents and children to make social connection through friendship. These social connections build a support system.
4. Encourage parents to be come their children’s expert. Parenting is part natural instinct and part learned skill.
5. Show parents where they can get concrete support in times of need. Connection to community support and resources increases resilience.
I am so thankful for how members of our faith community have showed up and helped make my family stronger. My son and I are stronger because of you. I hope and pray that other families in our community can view the local church as a place to find to strength and resilience.