Mary Christmas: Reaching Out To Teen Moms
By Ginger Sinsabaugh MacDonald Posted on January 15 2010
By Ginger Sinsbaugh MacDonaldOkay. We’ve heard the story a zillion times. Even those of us who are Chreasters (those who only show up for church on Christmas and Easter) know the story about the pregnant teen named Mary. She and her fiancé Joe didn’t have reservations at the Red Roof Inn so they spent the night in a stable, where Mary’s water broke and she ultimately gave birth to the reason for the season, and all those balls of holly, Butterball turkeys, Chia pets, TV specials and Christmas plays, but Lord knows, no programming for the teen mom.
Over the past several months, I’ve made it my mission to call the country’s fastest growing churches, hoping to glean cool ideas to reach out to teen moms. Considering one of every three teen girls get pregnant*, I had no doubt that many of these mega churches would be addressing this issue.
I visited countless church websites, many of which to took longer to load than it took Moses to part the Red Sea. They all had cool programs and links, including downloadable podcasts, coffee ministries, and kid programming that rivaled Disney World.
I might have even called your church.
But I was shocked to discover that only a handful of these churches had programming in place to reach out to the teen that chose life.
When I called the churches inquiring about programming for teen moms/pregnant teens, I heard a lot of interesting responses, including receptionists who would say, “Oh, we don’t have that problem here.” Good thing Bill Maher didn’t hear about that.
Other times, the church staff member would admit “there wasn’t room at their inn” for a pregnant teen. They couldn’t find a place for programming in their schedule or facilities. The phone attendant would say with a smile, “she can find some help at the crisis pregnancy center down the street”.
Of the few churches that did have programs, they had pretty cool ones in place. Some supported homes for teen moms. While in the inner-city, teen parenting can be the norm, in the suburbs, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of the pregnant teen being kicked out of her home. Other churches offered the teen parent a Mommy Mentor. This mentor, usually a former teen or single parent, could discuss the issues that the teen parent is facing as well as fears.
But I was bummed that there wasn’t more programming for the teen Marys of today.
Actually, bummed is a nicey-nice Christianese word for how I really feel.
That’s why TastyFaith.com came up with a list of ideas to make Christmas a time to reach out to the teen mom at the holiday, and adaptable for all year. No matter the size of your church, zip code or demographics, you can find ideas to reach out to the teen moms and pregnant teens in your community. Here are a few:
Create a Secret Wise Men Tree. Put the names of the teen moms in need on a Christmas tree along with the items that each of them need. Those interested in helping can select a name and bring the gift to the church. The gifts can be distributed at a special banquet for the teens.
Offer Babysitting service. Teen moms can have a hard time keeping up with homework and the duties of motherhood. Two out of three teen moms will drop out of school to care for their baby. So look for seasoned caregivers in your congregation who could volunteer to watch a baby for a set time while the mom can catch up on her homework.
Give coupons for one hour of Limo services. Okay, so the limo might be the church van. Getting around can be tough for a teen parent, from baby appointments to church. Why not make it a bit easier by offering her a ride? See if anyone in your congregation has an up-to-snuff car seat to donate, making the church vehicle a safe to transport a little tot. Or, if you offer a ride, make sure that the young mom has her own seat.
Compare Mary’s story to the teen Moms’ own stories. Whether you perform a contemporary version of Nativity story or read it from word for word from the King James Bible, invite the young moms to share their story as a teen parent. Ask open ended questions, including “Can teens make good parents?” “Who had it harder---Mary, the teen mom, Joseph, the boyfriend who raised Jesus as his own?” “Is it harder to be a teen parent today or back then?” Or “What’s easier, to say no to sex, to have an abortion, or to be a teen parent?” For more dialogue igniting questions, get a copy of TastyFaith’s Life After Birth Bible Studies for Teen Moms, Another Boy from the Hood: the life and times of Jesus Christ, or SheWise: Wisdom Beyond Street Smarts.
Make the Mary Christmas Challenge a yearly (or year-round) event. Teen pregnancy is a dicey topic, but there isn’t an easier time to talk about it than the holidays. Remember, 1 out of 3 girls will get pregnant, 2 out of 3 of those girls will drop out of school, but 3 out of 3 churches can help.
Start a support group. Now that’s a Christmas present that will last all year, unlike a Salad Shooter or reindeer boxers. You can network with your local school, other churches and local crisis pregnancy center to create one group that serves a bigger chunk of your community. Rotate in guest speakers from former teen moms to finance experts that can help these gals stretch their lean budgets Be sure to contact Young Lives, Campus Crusade and Teen MOPS to see if a chapter of their teen parenting programs already exist in your area. So the next time someone calls your church to see what you’re doing to help teen moms, you’ll have a great answer.