A childbirth ministry can be as large or small as your community needs. There are a wide variety of services that can be included depending on the number of volunteers who are committed to your program.
Although every aspect of a childbirth ministry should be based on biblical principles, a small group Bible study on pregnancy and childbirth can provide the spiritual meat some women are craving. In addition, it can serve as a fellowship and support group with minimal preparation. A Bible study requires only one volunteer, and can easily be incorporated into an existing childbirth ministry or can serve as the starting point. Birthing Naturally offers Bible study materials.
Childbirth Education Program
Many parents expect to attend childbirth education classes before the birth of their baby. Providing the classes through a childbirth ministry is a way for your church to meet the physical needs of your community while also meeting the spiritual needs.
There are a variety of subjects that can be offered as part of a childbirth education program. Depending on the experience and time commitment of your volunteers you may choose to provide one or more of the different classes, or combine them into one larger program. A childbirth education program requires at least one well trained volunteer, but will operate more smoothly with two or more volunteers.
Birthing Naturally has designed a Christian childbirth program which can be used by professional childbirth educators, doulas or midwives.
The presence of a doula (professional labor support) during labor is becoming more common and for good reason. The continuous presence and one on one support provided by a doula is so valuable to a woman in labor reviewers at the Cochrane Collaboration recommend that every woman have a doula.
Your doulas may be able to work with the clients before labor, helping them to make decisions and plan for the labor, or may only join them once labor begins. Depending on how you find your clients, you can work in groups or assign certain days to certain doulas to ensure that a doula is always available to attend a labor.
Another aspect to doula work is the postpartum doula who cares for the mother and new family after the baby is born. The postpartum doula may help with chores, prepare meals, care for older children or whatever the mother may need. Volunteers with more training may feel comfortable giving infant care or breastfeeding advice. Postpartum work is easier to schedule because the times of the service will be discussed and agreed up by the mother and doula.
A labor doula ministry requires a larger group (6 or more) of highly committed and well trained volunteers. A postpartum doula ministry can be started with one volunteer who is willing to give a few hours to new families.
Meals for New Families
The transition time when a new baby joins the family can be difficult. One way your group can help ease the stress is by providing warm meals, or by freezing meals for the family to use as needed. If your church already has a program in place to provide meals to families in need, you may be able to incorporate the childbirth ministry families into that program.
In mentoring relationships, an older or more mature woman helps a lesser experienced woman navigate the transitions and growth she is experiencing. It is rare that a mentoring relationship will be effective when it is forced between two strangers.
The best mentoring relationships occur between two women who are already involved in a friendship that allows them to be open and honest about their struggles and challenges. You may want to have a formal program where you assign a woman to a mentor, or you may wish to simply train willing mentors who will develop informal relationships with the women in your church.
A mentoring program for women outside the church will need to be staffed with volunteers who are enthusiastic about building relationships. The volunteers will usually need to carry most of the weight of the friendship, being the one to make phone calls and plan visits.
Mentoring also requires a longer term commitment than other forms of ministry. Because you are investing in the life of another woman, and allowing her to learn simply by watching you it is best to think of the mentoring as lasting for 9 months to a year.
New Parent Support
Closely related to mentoring, but with less commitment is a new parent support program. This can take the form of a small group Bible study or fellowship that meets weekly, or monthly, a phone or email “hot-line” for information and encouragement, or a program that matches families with supportive encouragers who can answer questions.
Another way to handle new parent support is through a newsletter or resource list that is made available to expectant families.
A lending library is an easy addition to any childbirth ministry. It gives your church members or those who use your ministry access to a variety of materials to help them prepare for parenting. Your library can be stocked with books, magazines, videos, and even audio tape series covering topics of pregnancy, childbirth, baby care, child development and parenting issues.
One of the strengths of a lending library is that it allows people to participate in a non-threatening way, simply checking out a book or movie. Some individuals will be hesitant to join a class or group, or to work one on one with someone, but may begin to feel more comfortable as they become familiar with the programs available through the lending library volunteers.
A lending library will take little volunteer time or effort once it gets started, but it will require that you search for donations of materials to be used. You will also need a space to store the materials and a way to keep track of who has what materials.
Expectant families need everything from maternity clothes for the expectant mother to diapers for the new baby. Your church can help meet these needs by holding clothing or supply drives.
This type of program will take only a few volunteers to organize donations and distribution, but will require large amounts of space for storage. You may find it works best for your church to organize the supply drives and donate the equipment to another organization such as a crisis pregnancy center.