- Nearly/Newly married couples (20-somethings)
- The church wants to get in front of engaged couples or even couples who are going to be engaged. Female staff members informed the male staff members that future brides spend a lot of time reading local wedding magazines. So, the church now hosts bridal shows, advertises in wedding magazines, reaches out to local wedding photographers and caterers, etc. They want to be known in their local wedding industry as a wedding-friendly church.
- The church has two small group or Sunday School classes for nearly/newly married couples. The teachers for these classes are couples who've been married for over 20 years who can provide good role-models. The female teacher regularly meets with the young women in the class and the same for the guys. This provides outlets for the genders to share what is going on with them as they go through life.
- The church also supports this age group with seminars by bringing in speakers and/or sending them to a conference at another church. Also, about two times a year there are fellowship meals at the church (with childcare provided if needed). The goal of these times together is for nearly and newly marrieds to get to know each other and eventually to become the support network for each other as they go through the various life-stages together.
- Families with young children (20- and 30-somethings)
- When a couple announces they are pregnant, the staff assign another young married couple to partner with the pregnant couple. The assigned couple helps the pregnant couple in any way possible such as accompanying the woman to the doctor if the husband is away, providing childcare for other children while mom is at the doc, having at least one supper together during the pregnancy, and even organizing a baby shower especially if this is the first child.
- After the baby is born, the assigned couple coordinates getting food to the new parents, informing the church staff of the new baby, and getting a sign from the church which they place in the front yard of the couple so that their neighbors will know about the new arrival.
- The church has a bulletin board with 12 sections (one for each month) and pregnancies are made public by placing the couple's name on the bulletin board in the month that the baby is due. When the gender of the baby is known, a small blue or pink ribbon is pinned by the parent's name.
- At least once a year, the church hosts a nice supper for everyone that had a new child born in the past year. Childcare is provided and the parents get to enjoy a quiet dinner (maybe their first as a couple since the baby came) with a bunch of friends who are in the same life-stage as them.
- There are no "mass baby dedications" - only one baby is dedicated per worship service. The family is invited onto the platform, the pastor holds the baby, says a few nice words, has a prayer of dedication for the baby, parents and any siblings. BTW, the baby is kept in the nursery until the dedication time - then a volunteer brings the new baby from the nursery, hands the baby to the mom just before the parents go forward and after the dedication, the volunteer takes the baby back to the nursery so the parents can stay for worship.
- Each month there is a PNO (Parents Night Out) and a SNO (Social Night Out). PNO is meant for couples to drop their kids off at the church so mom and dad can have a date. SNO is for classes or small groups to have fellowship time together while kids are safely in a church nursery. The cost for three hours of childcare is minimal, about $7 or $8 per child in order to make this affordable for parents - yes, the church budgets money to subsidize this but not much since there is so much volume that a fair amount of income is provided by the parents.
- The children’s division had a priority for funding in the annual budget. If necessary, the pastor would solicit children's workers and also encourage them. Teaching the teachers was emphasized by bringing in education specialists from nearby colleges.
- Facilities improvement was constant. A list of needs was kept current and as items on the list were ticked off, other items would be added. The goals was to keep the facilities in very good condition because new parents want and expect the best for their children.
- Over the summer, there were day camps at the church for preschoolers ("popcicles and pools"), weeklong summer-day camps centered on recreation at a nearby campground. These kept the children busy and provided opportunities for the parents to talk and support each other.
- The goals are for the church to be a place children WANT to go to and a place where young parents are finding the support and training network for this brand-new stage of their lives.
- Marriage enrichment (30-, 40-, and 50-somethings)
- The church provides bi-annual marriage conferences with a very good outside speaker. The conference is often a two or three day event where the speaker is on several times speaking in formal settings (such as Sunday morning sermon time) and informal settings (such as a dinner with a Q&A time). The topic of the conference is about making marriages work and improving communication between spouses.
- There are other seminars on personal finances which is critical to new marriages. The church provides training for small group teachers regularly; it continually improves the facilities, and even has on-campus counselors (a local Christian counseling org uses church space rent-free but gives church members a discount).
- The goal is for the church to support couples during all the difficulties of marriages. Couples who've been married 10 to 30 years go through massive life-style changes and adapting to them requires constant re-focusing by both spouses. The church wants to help each partner understand his/her role in the new patterns and understand what the other parent is going through. Yes, there are divorces at this church, but fewer than I’d seen at other churches.
How are you living out the key components of your strategic plan and vision?