Last week I taught several workshops for Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference in Nashville. One of the workshops I led was on how to launch a Cradle Care Ministry. I love talking about this subject because it provides a way for churches to naturally engage new or expectant families. Since being home from Lifeway’s conference, I’ve received more emails than I can count asking for follow-up from this workshop. While the primary objective of this blog is to specifically equip churches for better special needs inclusion, occasionally we’ll offer information related to general children’s ministry. Today is one of those days we’re talking “General Kidmin” (note the new category on this blog). Hopefully you’ll see how a Cradle Care Ministry can also benefit families impacted by special needs.
Below are my notes from which I taught this workshop. At the bottom of this post are links to other helpful documents and an article about Dawson’s Cradle Care Ministry.
I owe huge thanks to the past and current preschool ministers at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. In 2000 Dawn Burgess took a small “Cradle Club” and made it into a strategic ministry for Dawson to reach and engage new families. Since 2008, Brooke Gibson has continued the ministry, continually updating it to be a vital component to Dawson’s growth strategy.
Recognizing that the anticipation of a new baby through pregnancy or adoption is a crucial transition time in any family, the Cradle Care ministry seeks to minister to expectant families through
2) Life-on-Life relationships
3) Connection to other church ministries & resources
As in all church ministries, the ultimate goal of a Cradle Care Ministry is to draw women and their families into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. A Cradle Care Ministry can also be a tool to develop “investors” in the children’s ministry and future lay leaders in the church.
The size of a church or the idea of navigating the culture of any church can be overwhelming for a moderately to minimally-involved church attendee. However the desire for community is virtually universal. The CC ministry creates a sense of family by formally recognizing babies on the way and in the fellowship. CC also provides a non-threatening way for relationship building. No long term commitment or personal service is required in signing up to be a care recipient. CC Participants may be ministered to by the CC team, build confidence in the church nursery, and develop a personal path forward in their own spiritual journey. The CC ministry’s ultimate goal is to usher a participant into a Sunday morning fellowship group, small group, Moms-n-More weekly Bible Study, or another ministry venue that aids her in personal spiritual development.
(1) Care Receiver Sign-Up: Participants would be encouraged to sign up for CC ministry through announcements in the weekly church newsletter/bulletin and online through the church website and Facebook page. Other church ministries would be educated so to be on the lookout for potential participants (Sunday School classes, small groups, discipleship leaders, Moms-n-More, etc). In addition, relationships would be established between CC ministry team and The Missing Carriage (miscarriage ministry), the adoption ministry, and the infertility related ministries. Ideally participants would receive prayer and ministry for nearly one year: pregnancy through the first 3 months of baby’s life. In cases of adoption, a care giver could be assigned to a prospective adopted family once they have been selected by a birthmother. CC team members would be prepared to minister in this unusual transition time and in the event the adoption doesn’t successfully complete.
Wording for Church Bulletin, Newsletter, or Website:
Are you expecting a new addition to your family? Do you know someone who is?
The cradle care ministry exists to minister to expectant families in our church and community. Each family is assigned a caregiver to communicate throughout the pregnancy, birth, and family dedication. Parent names are posted on the the Expectant Parent board located in the ________________. Please drop by to find out who’s new and who’s due!
To enroll someone in the cradle care ministry contact _____________. Please include parents’ names and month due.
(2) Caregiver Recruitment: Care givers will be selected and recruited by the preschool minister and other respected staff and lay-leaders. Team members could be required to complete ministry team application similar to preschool service application or Bible study leader application. Caregivers are ideally young mothers themselves, active in a number of church ministries, and have demonstrated the ability and desire to aid in the spiritual growth of other women.
Preschool Minister’s Commitment:
- Recruit and train care givers
- Receive care recipient information and maintain database
- Assign care recipients to care givers
- Assist care givers in meeting unique needs
- Create agenda & lead monthly CC team meetings/trainings
- Assist care giver team w/ministry events (semi-annual dinner)
- Maintain Cradle Care Bulletin Board
- Network across church staff and with other ministries in order to help CC team facilitate connections as needs arise of care recipients (e.g. pastoral care needs, special needs ministry, etc)
Caregiver Job Description:
- Attend monthly meetings
- Plan & assist w/semiannual New & Expectant Parents’ Dinner (rotating responsibility)
- Serve as caregiver to expectant & new mother
- Establish relationship, introduce family into preschool ministry
- Shepherd family into other church environments (Fellowship groups, Bible study).
- Pray regularly for expecting family, mail a prayer card.
- Follow up regularly, bringing prayer needs to church
- Own the church relationship w/ family, facilitating timely communication of:
- Date of child’s birth
- Hospital the mother/child is in
- Proper spelling of child’s name
- Special needs or other pastoral care type issues
- Personally Deliver/Return : Expectant parent gifts, Cradle Care Gift Bucket & Yard Sign
- Assist the family on Parent/Baby Dedication Sunday
Baby Showers – Serving as a caregiver has the potential to drain a family of financial and time resources when it comes to baby shower invitations. This is one of the biggest down-sides to recruiting people to serve on a CC ministry. Expectations may need to be set in writing that caregivers may not be able to attend or provide personal gifts at baby showers for care recipients.
Special Needs – Caregivers would be trained to provide ministry or make connections between participants and other church members/ministries who could meet specific needs. Care recipients would receive special support when they experience crisis such as: short-notice adoption, unwed or single mothers, miscarriage, still-birth, high-risk pregnancy or bed-rest, pre-birth testing that shows potential problems, post-partum depression.
Prayer – The CC team would understand the importance of their participation in individual and corporate prayers for their individually assigned families and for the group as a whole.
(3) Bulletin Board – A bulletin board showing all pregnant women (beginning at either 12 or 14 weeks) through 3 months after birth would be displayed prominently in a high-traffic area, ideally near the preschool ministry. A CC team member with creative talents may design the layout of the board and recruit other CC team members to help her put up and maintain the board.
(4) Gift Baskets – Gift(s) may be offered upon announcement of pregnancy and/or birth of baby
- ParentLife Magazine’s special edition of BabyLife – www.lifeway.com
- Mustard Seed Burp Cloth, Infant Creeper or Bib- www.mustardseedgirls.com
- Rubber Ducks – www.orientaltrading.com
- Custom Diaper Bag Tags w Children’s Ministry logo-www.nlsspecialties.com
- Small Bible with baby’s name printed on cover
- Music CD (Baby Lullaby CD, Praise Baby, other juvenile Christian music)
- Children’s ministry brochures
(5) Yard Signs – Caregivers would deliver a yard sign on a stick to go in the yard of the new family’s home. This sign is a very effective advertisement for the church. Parents absolutely love this sign in their yard. The Dawson staff shares stories of young families coming back to church just so they can get the Cradle Care announcement sign in their yard. The importance of the yard sign to the ministry cannot be understated!
(6) Semi-Annual Dinner + Nursery Tour (90 minutes)
Invitation – Baby shower type invitation is sent to all CC care recipients + husband/father.
Food – Food is ordered from inexpensive restaurant or catering company (e.g. subway sandwiches, pasta + salad, dessert from warehouse club)
Table assignments – Hosts and participants are paired so to help facilitate interaction, especially with husbands.
Games – CC care giver acts as host at each table, facilitating games to encourage interaction. Prizes are awarded for closest to correct answer:
- Pictures of common baby products with the name covered up. Husbands are to guess the product. (e.g. Dreft Laundry detergent).
- How many saltines does the church nursery go through each Sunday?
- How many dads work in the church nursery?
- How many babies are dedicated at our church each year?
- What husband’s mother-in-law lives the closest?
- What mother went through the longest labor?
Prizes – Provided for the above games:
- Large Jar of Pickles + Gift Card to local ice cream shop
- Gift Card to the movie theater
- Pack of Baby Spoons
- Other inexpensive Baby items
Speaker – Married couple further along (children might be in middle school or high school) speak for 15 minutes on topic of their choice. This selected couple has strong relationship with Christ and inside church. Talks might cover any topic related to marriage, child-rearing, and growing in a relationship with Christ:
- What we wish we’d known when we were pregnant
- How we grew through hard times in our marriage
Nursery tour – Preschool minister hosts a tour of nursery, nursing mothers room and goes over safety policies. Parents may also get their picture badge so to make their first Sunday in the nursery go smoothly.
(7) Baby Dedication
Dawson recognizes each new baby individually. For the past several years Dawson has done between 70 and 80 individual baby dedications. Below are pictures of the pastor’s wife meeting with the family just prior to the baby dedication and then the pastor dedicating the baby/family in front of the church. The pictures shown are from the church’s traditional worship service (a casual and contemporary worship service is also offered). Dawson Baptist Church offers 3 worship services each Sunday morning. Parents may choose which service to attend and to dedicate their child.
The pastor’s wife meets with the parents just before they go into worship and participate in their child’s family dedication. The pastor’s wife takes this opportunity to get to the know the family and prepare them for what happens during the service.
The church pastor talking to the congregation about the need for children’s ministry volunteers to care for and teach this child to aid in their spiritual development.
P.S. Yes, my dad is the Senior Pastor of Dawson Memorial Baptist in Birmingham. The pictures above show both my mom and my dad (Alta Faye & Gary Fenton). Both of my parents are involved in Dawson’s Cradle Care Ministry. My sister has also served as a CC Caregiver.
- Cradle Care Caregiver Information Sheet – Created by Dawn Burgess
- Cradle Care Expectant Letter from Preschool Minister (template) – Created by Dawn Burgess