16 Ways Faith Communities Can Support Families

December 13, 1999

Here are some suggestions for how your place of worship can help parents connect, relieve family stress and build a wider sense of community for families:

  • Create a church-sponsored family-support center providing childcare, family social activities, and parent counseling. If possible, offer co-operative childcare, which requires parent-involvement and encourages parent connections.
  • Offer church-sponsored family retreats or trips. For example, Coast Hills sponsors an annual ski trip for 20-30 families.
  • Provide baby-sitting so parents can attend services. Care can be extended into the morning, freeing parents for a quiet breakfast together. Some churches offer Parents' Morning Out programs one morning during the week.
  • Support church-based and community-based programs for young fathers and single mothers.
  • Offer marriage-maintenance classes to members of the congregation and to the community.
  • Provide parenting programs to current parents and to young people - especially boys and young men - before they become parents.
  • Create a family-to-family missions, or family clusters of six to ten families. Parents can adopt fellow parents as sisters and brothers; children can adopt each other as cousins. Some family clusters meet together for years, with older members coming back for a visit.
  • Reach out to parents and children beyond your neighborhoods by teaming up with suburban or inner-city congregations to sponsor programs for abused and runaway children, the homeless, and other families in need.
  • Start a children's inoculation center staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses from the congregation.
  • Offer childcare and preschool programs of improved quality. Provide community leadership in creating public-private consortiums that open new child-care centers and create loan and investment funds for child care.
  • Partner with businesses and financial institutions to offer low-cost mortgages for families unable to obtain bank loans.
  • Offer mentoring and tutoring programs - especially for at-risk children facing stiffened promotion standards. Also, create community help centers for parents and children who need help with the college application process.
  • Sponsor teen centers and after-school programs.
  • Support programs for abused and runaway children, the homeless, and other families in need.
  • Enlist older members of the congregation to share their talents and services with young parents and children.
  • Host "alternative gift fairs" that focus on the needs of children in the wider community.
  • And add to this list with your own ideas! Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts.

Richard Louv is a former editor of Connect for Kids, SparkAction's predecessor site, and the author of several books about childhood, child development and the environment, including The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods.

You can find him at RichardLouv.com.


Image credit: Martine Lemmens.

Richard Louv