Several years ago, my husband and I were privileged to be a part of a new church plant. Early on, our pastor expected that a certain population from our community would be drawn to our church. Who we observed entering the doors, however, was a different population. Sunday after Sunday young families—expectant parents, parents with babies in arms, parents with preschoolers in tow—streamed in.

God reminded me of the wise words from Henry Blackaby in his study, Experiencing God: “Join God where He is working.” It was obvious that God was saying, “See who I am sending your way? Now join Me in ministering to them.”

As we became acquainted with these young parents, we learned that many were unchurched—either because they had never attended or because they had dropped out while in college. Now they saw the need for a church to help them raise their little ones. Either way, their need was our opportunity.

I met with our pastor and suggested that we begin building relationships with these young families by celebrating the birth of their babies. That was the beginning of a ministry we call “Here and Nearly Here.”

The purpose

The purpose of Here and Nearly Here is to connect with parents early in their parenting journey and establish a loving, caring relationship. We also desire to help them establish homes where their children are truly blessed, not indulged. With this relationship foundation, we can build on it as their children develop—one in which we can establish ministry milestones that will help these parents through the parenting journey from birth through the high school years.

Where to begin

We begin by inviting all parents who are either expecting or have recently delivered a baby to a special evening which includes a lovely dinner. We invite them with invitations delivered the old-fashioned way, snail mail. The tables are attractively set because such attention to detail often speaks to the heart and says, “We care about you and what God is doing in your life.” During the dinner, parents meet, chat with one another, and begin to build friendships, some that will last a lifetime.

What to include

Following dinner, we gather where we can hear one other and share. The parents first share about themselves and their new baby or their expected one.

Next we give them a copy of “21 Ways to Bless Your Child” printed on baby-themed stationery. After giving them time to look over the list, we engage in fun and lively discussion around the blessings.

Then we provide parents with stationery and encourage them to write a blessing to their new little one to include in his or her baby book. We also suggest that they continue to work on it at home by adding a life verse from Scripture. Before leaving, our pastor prays a prayer of blessing over the parents and their children.

Blessing parents in your church

Ask yourself if your church could benefit from providing a ministry to new parents—a time to connect and build relationships at the very beginning of their parenting journey. It’s a time when they are going to know happiness and exhaustion and everything in between.

If your pastor and staff see the need and the benefit and you have a desire to put down a stake in the lives of young families, go for it. It is an amazing way to love on young parents and let them know you will support and assist them with their children as they “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).

Copyright © 2018 by Saundria Keck. Used with permission.

Learn about FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting®, a new initiative to help parents “aim their child’s heart toward God.”