A number of our Uniting Churches have families coming to their church to have their children baptised, it is a great event or celebration and then we never see them again. I have invited 2 Churches to share their stories about how they are looking to grow their ministry with these families.
Tuggeranong Uniting Church Canberra
Tuggeranong have been working hard to engage baptismal families who come to us from outside of the church. We have developed a number of ways that seem to help us hold onto families that present for baptism, with a number now joining our church.
Firstly, as minister, I invite them to join us for a service, and we make sure that service engages children and is very child-friendly.
On the day of the baptism, we will have an Intergen service that engages children and provides lots of child and adult friendly activities, especially ones where children and adults can work together. As well as the baptismal family continuing to attend, this has resulted in several families related to the baptismal family beginning to attend our church as well.
We hold a special children’s service every 2-3 months, and we invite every child on our baptismal roll from the last few years by sending them a personal invitation in the post, specifically addressed to the child. This has reignited the interest of a number of families (gotta love the power of pester from kids) that previously presented for baptism, and they have attended these services and reengaged with us.
An elder will recontact baptismal families within a short time of the baptism and engage with them over coffee, or lunch.
Rev Elizabeth Raine
The Network of Uniting Churches in the Hawkesbury..
We have significant baptismal ministry across 5 congregations, because we have four 19th Century Churches. Families are still looking for ritual and marking rites of passage for their families. There is also an element of the sacred being part of this and the spaces of these old churches help people connect with their understanding of God.
Half of the families that come for baptisms are out of the area, and they are not interested in connecting with Uniting Churches in their local area. They come to the Ebenezer Church in particular because they are connected with the founding families of the area. As a worshiping community we are more willing to connect with people not associated with our congregations because we believe in the importance of welcoming all people and that baptism is a gift that we offer. This is about connecting with families and offering support for family life. So if the congregations are making promises about supporting them – how do we do that now?
One of the issues we are dealing with is that there is a translation issue between church going grandparents and how grandchildren are raising their great grand children in faith. Many stories are lost and faith is part of a family tradition not something personally held.
So in response to this I have been emailing and posting baptismal families faith resources like illustrated ministry and sanctified art as well as mental health resources (things like encouraging dinner conversations and maintaining family relationships) from the NSW government. https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19-support
As we move out of Covid we are looking at organising monthly gathering for families around a Godly play story and a BBQ.
We are also looking at exploring how we can develop online communities, possibly through zoom using lost sheep stories and other activities, providing them with activities that can also be used as show and tell.
We had also explored the idea of starting a closed facebook community, on this would be a place to share resources of faith, life and family. It would also be a safe place to ask questions and share ideas and issue around family life and parenting.
Rev Ann Perrin
Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and is the team leader of PULSE.