This is day 18 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School.
I’m about to be a grandfather! Our daughter is just a few weeks away from giving us our first grandchild. Needless to say, my wife is busy dragging me around to every store that has anything to do with babies. I have noticed a couple of things while looking at cute little baby socks and rattles. First, baby stuff is expensive! And second, there are a lot of pregnant women and babies with mommy’s and daddy’s out there! This got me to thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if all of those babies were coming to church with their mommy’s and daddy’s? What are we doing to reach those parents and babies?
In my role as a state Sunday School Director, I visit many churches that have a strong preschool ministry. However, I also have seen many bed baby rooms that are being used for storage. Many of these churches don’t even have any bed baby teachers enlisted. Their excuse is, “We don’t have any babies in our church right now, so we don’t need to prepare the room or enlist any teachers.” What a shame! Every community probably has a few expectant parents and babies that aren’t enrolled in Bible study. If we aren’t prepared and actively seeking them how will we ever reach them?
Years ago we had a great program called the Cradle Roll Department. It ministered to parents and families with young preschoolers. A few years ago the name was changed to “First Contact”. It is designed to provide an ongoing emphasis for outreach and ministry through the Preschool Sunday School. It does this by helping your church discover, locate, and minister to expectant parents and families with babies up to 12 months of age, like those young parents I see in the baby stores. It provides support through prayer, encouragement, and ministry on a regular basis. If parents agree, a child may be enrolled in Sunday School.
If your church does not already have a First Contact ministry, you may want to consider starting one. The first step will be for your church to enlist someone to coordinate the First Contact ministry. Then you will want to enlist a core group of people who will visit prospects. Visitors may be:
- Adults with a love for young families
- Couples from Young Adult Sunday School classes
- Preschool Sunday School teachers
You will want to develop plans for locating prospects such as:
- Birth announcements from newspapers
- VBS prospects who have siblings 12 months or younger
- Names given by church members
- Expectant parents class offered by your church
- Families who visit during a holiday church event
You will want to develop a plan for ministering to and cultivating relationships with prospects such as Bible studies for new parents; Young Adult Sunday School fellowships; Parent/Baby Dedication services that include church members and prospects. Many churches provide a copy of BabyLife magazine to new parents. This is a monthly magazine from LifeWay Christian Resources. The next step is to develop a budget, train your visitors to make contacts and start the ministry!
David Francis states in “Missionary Sunday School”: “The missionary Sunday School is satisfied only when everyone within its reach has access to a Bible study group appropriate for his/her age, stage of life, and ability to learn (click here to go back to David’s blog post). Until that happens, there is always more work to do.” This includes expectant parents and parents with babies 12 months and younger. The question is, “Do we have expectant mothers and parents with babies in our community?” “Are we doing our best to reach out to these families?”
I’m grateful that my kids and my future grandchild will be enrolled in a loving Southern Baptist Church where they will be loved and cared for. But my heart breaks every time my wife takes me to another baby department and I see so many babies and expectant mothers that may or may not be enrolled in a Bible study ministry. I encourage you to seek God’s will about what He would have your church to do.
For more detailed ideas and help in starting a First Contact ministry in your church, contact your Associational Office or State Convention Sunday School Department.
Mark Donnell serves as the Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention