Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10
One of the most common ways a small group grows is through the birth of a new baby. If you are a group leader longing to love your people well, a new baby is a great chance to not only care for the family of the new arrival but also to establish or strengthen a culture of service and selflessness within the group. Here are three things to think about when the stork stops by.
1. Be Quick to Feed
Unless you have a new baby of your own, you probably don’t remember how much work it takes to keep a helpless little floppy person alive.
The best way to help a family with a new mouth to feed is to feed their mouths. Don’t hesitate to start a meal train early, and don’t feel weird about letting it run for a while. It could be ages before anyone in the house gets enough sleep to feel like cooking anything more complicated than a PB & J.
Before you set it up, speak with the new parents to see what they are comfortable with. An introverted New Yorker might not be comfortable with a bunch of strangers coming to her door with food, while someone born and raised in the South might leave the door unlocked for any stranger with food to drop off what they’ve got.
Just be direct in asking what new mom/dad is comfortable with. They can give you a list of emails if they want to keep the meal train small and private, or you could get their go-ahead to open it up to the whole church/neighborhood/tri-county area.
2. Be Quick to Clarify Expectations
Being upfront about group expectations can help you avoid any baby-related conflict that might arise with a new baby in the mix. Have answers to the following questions, and bring up the discussion before or right when the baby arrives:
- Are babies/kids in general allowed in the discussion time?
- If not, how does your group handle childcare?
If you’ve got a group full of kids making various kid noises, it can be hard to engage in any sort of grown-up discussion time. On the other hand, if you only have a child or two in your group, investing in childcare is hardly worth it. You must consider the various ages of children in the group as well. If all the kids in your group are old enough to watch VeggieTales in the other room, you can go for that option. But, if you’ve got a group full of screeching rug rats, you might need some extra eyes and hands in order to make your small group time worthwhile.
3. Be Slow to Advise
As a general life rule, it’s almost always a bad idea to offer advice to someone who’s not asking. However, as a small group leader, you have a unique opportunity and responsibility to speak into the lives of your group members. Just make sure that you wait until you have a sense of a couple’s parenting style and personality before offering child-rearing recommendations.
Some new mothers and fathers will let their children “cry it out.” Some new parents will stay away from the group for two months to avoid germs. Some don’t want anyone who isn’t family babysitting for them, even if they see that person every Wednesday. Parenting preferences like these shouldn’t be addressed or criticized, as there are no moral or biblical implications to having small group members that co-sleep with their toddlers.
Not all babies are the same. Not all parents are the same. If you’re not 100% sure your advice is necessary, it’s probably best to sit on it. The birth of a new baby, quiet or otherwise, is more a time for ministry of presence than guidance. The important thing is that you are leading members of your group toward Christ-likeness, not toward a strict following of the Baby Wise book series.
If you are sensitive to the uniqueness of each group member in your care and direct in asking what their wants and needs are, you can do a phenomenal job in leading other members of your group to “outdo one another” in showing love and honor to families with new babies.
Scarlet Hiltibidal is a freelance writer living in Nashville, TN. Scarlet has a degree in biblical counseling and worked as a Christian schoolteacher before she started writing. She has written for and managed various online publications. Currently, she writes elementary small-group curriculum and and articles on motherhood for Smart Mom. Scarlet is wife to Brandon, who is part of the Groups Ministry Team at Lifeway, and Mommy to her daughters, Ever Grace and Brooklyn Hope.