“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” – Romans 12:13
As I mentioned in my last post on discipling parents in small groups, there have been 55 babies born in our church in just the last three years alone. God in his grace has brought many young people and young couples to Trinity Bible Chapel, many of whom are getting married and starting families. In my small group right now, for example, there is a young married couple expecting their first child. When my wife and I were expecting our first child, our small group was a tremendous blessing to us in the way they lovingly served and cared for us in the months leading up to the birth of our child as well as in the days that followed. Small groups are places where people are cared for and loved. So here are 8 simple ways that you can serve both parents-to-be and young parents in your small group:
1. Setup a Meal Train When the Baby Is Born
Perhaps the most practical way a small group can serve a couple in their group that has just had a baby is by setting up a meal train to coordinate and provide meals for the first few days after the baby has been born. Whether it’s their first baby or their fifth baby, the first couple of weeks after a baby has been born is a significant period of adjustment and can be stressful at times. To not have to worry about what you’re going to make for dinner is incredibly helpful during these first few days. A meal train also provides the other members of your small group (and others in the church) with a simple and inexpensive way to serve and to bless someone else in the body of Christ.
Pro Tip: Use mealtrain.com to coordinate the meal delivery schedule and signup list.
2. Host a Small Group Baby Shower for Them
Some small groups have held baby showers for couples in their group that are expecting their first child. This too is a simple, practical way to bless the couple. You can either have everyone bring a gift to it or you can have everyone pitch in some money (as they are able) and you can buy a single gift card for the couple. You can include a time of prayer for the couple where the group lays hands on them, praying for a healthy baby, a safe delivery, the salvation of the child at a young age, a smooth adjustment to parenthood, and any other requests the couple may have.
Pro tip: Ask the couple if they have a baby registry with a local retailer that can be used for gift ideas.
3. Make Your Small Group Social Events Child-Friendly
Our regular small group nights are not open to children (newborns and small nursing babies are an exception), primarily because of the sensitivity and confidentiality of the accountability time. However, small group socials such as potlucks and BBQs should be child-friendly. This prevents parents from having to find (and pay for) babysitting and it is also an opportunity for the children to connect with other people in the body of Christ. Furthermore, it allows children to observe their parents fellowshipping with other believers. This will serve as a good example to them and will help normalize different aspects of church ministry while they’re still young.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind things like start and end times as well as venue size when planning an event that will include children.
4. Provide Them with Good Christian Resources
There are plenty of helpful Christian resources out there on parenting, family worship, and teaching kids theology. Consider giving them a copy of a book like Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Trip or Family Worship by Don Whitney. These types of resources make for great gifts to new and young parents alike and will help equip them as they seek to raise their children to fear the Lord.
Pro Tip: Check out this categorized list of Christian resources on parenting put together by Randy Frey and other parents in the church.
5. Have Someone in Your Small Group Offer to Babysit
One simple way to bless parents with young children in your small group is to see if anyone (including yourselves) would be willing to babysit their child(ren) for a night to give them a date night. You can then offer this idea to the parents and leave it to them as to whether or not they take you up on it.
Pro Tip: The best people to use for babysitting are those that are already serving in the Trinity Kids Ministry as they have already been through the vetting process.
6. Ask Them If They’d Like to Host
If this makes sense for the rest of your group (based on location, size of house, current hosting situation, etc.), then consider asking the couple with the new baby if it would be easier for them to host the group. Assure them that there’s no pressure to do so, but that you simply want to see if this is something that would make things easier for them. Sometimes couples with young children like to host because then they can put their children to bed before small group and also don’t have to worry about finding a babysitter. Or perhaps the parents may choose not to host but instead would like to bring a pack ‘n play to small group and put their baby to bed in another room in the host home during the meeting. The point is, be flexible and see if there are creative ways to accommodate one another.
Pro Tip: It may also make sense to change the start time to 7:30pm if you meet earlier than that to give the couple adequate time to put their child(ren) to sleep.
7. Offer Encouragement, Not Just Advice
New parents are used to getting parental advice from everyone and their mother. Don’t get me wrong, there will certainly be appropriate times for you to speak into their lives and give them sound advice and counsel from God’s Word. But God also commands us to “encourage one another and build one another up,” (1 Thess. 5:11). Be sure to give young parents lots of encouragement. Encourage them to cling to the Lord and rely on his strength to get them through the difficult and tiresome times. Assure them that God will give them the grace they need to do what he’s called them to do. When you see God at work in their lives and in their parenting, be sure to let them know. Pray with them often. Remind them that they aren’t alone and that you and the church are there to care for and support them as they raise their little ones.
Pro Tip: Prayer can be a wonderful means of encouragement. If you ever feel prompted to pray for a parent in your small group (or anyone for that matter), don’t ignore that impulse. Pray for them right then and there. As Martin Lloyd Jones once said, “always respond to every impulse to pray.”
8. Talk about Parenting in Accountability
Not only will discussing parenting in accountability be helpful to the discipleship of current parents in your small group, but it will also help prepare others in your small group for parenthood. If topics like discipline and family worship are regularly talked about in small group, it will teach young people that these are important aspects of raising children to fear the Lord and will thus help prepare them should God one day bless them with children.
Pro Tip: Check out this blog post for some optional accountability questions related to parenting that can be asked from time to time in accountability.