A new group - the Parents of Newborns and Toddlers Planning Group (PNTPG) - ministers to young families attending the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County in State College, Pennsylvania. Director of Religious Education Jean Wiant said, "I first organized the planning group to discuss what we wanted to do as a group for the many young families (seventeen at last count) that we have at our church.
We decided to send an invitation to the Parents of Newborns and Toddlers (PNT's) to come to the church on a Saturday morning for conversation, refreshments, and a discussion of what they would like us to do for them. We also wanted to know how we could keep them connected to the church.
The first gathering was very successful. The PNT's gave us their ideas of what they would like at their gatherings; they were grateful that we were thinking about them and the needs of their families. The group decided to meet once a month on a Saturday morning. They wanted to have time to get to know each other. They wanted activities for their older children so that they (the PNT's) could visit with each other. They wanted to be able to have the time and opportunity to share ideas with other young parents.
The PNT's decided that for their first year, they did not want to pursue structured programming. At the end of this year they plan to discuss possible programming options for next year. Possibilities include the "Evensong for Families" curriculum, bringing in guest speakers from the community, starting a babysitting co-op, offering a Mom's Night Out, setting up an after school pick-up, providing surrogate grandparent support, offering shared time in the nursery, child/baby drumming, and having a once-a-month playgroup.
Since that first meeting, the PNT's have met on the first Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. At least two members from the PNTPG are there beforehand to set up, during the gathering to provide activities for older children or to participate in the discussions, and afterward to clean up. The PNT's have been very grateful that someone noticed their needs and provided the opportunity for them to gather together.
At one of the gatherings, a parent brought in books and clothing that her children had outgrown. She offered these items to the other parents for their children, and all of the items went home with someone else. The mother who brought the items was able to pass on some history while handing on the items for others to use.
The PNTNG has felt good about providing the opportunity for the PNT's to gather. The best reward though, has been the opportunity to spend time in shared ministry with the young families who are so often in a rush to keep up with their busy schedules.