From Andrea Zimmerman, who, with her husband Aaron, will lead one of our breakout sessions on Friday morning at the upcoming 2011 Mockingbird Conference.

“Am I allowed to come to Christmas services at your church with my boys?”

An unwed mother with two small children asked me this question a few days before Christmas. Her church did not allow her to participate in services because she had children out of wedlock. Even though she had already visited our church twice, she couldn’t believe that we would actually allow her to participate, much less at a “special” service. She is not alone. Many unwed or divorced mothers feel this way about the church (And this is not a small group of people: 40% of children born in the US today are born to unwed mothers). Many families who have children with special needs feel the same way (95% of these families do not go to church).
For these folks, the church doors have seemed shut for so long.
What if the church were a place a teen mom could raise her child with loving, hands-on support? Or a place where a battered mom and her kids could start over with the community found in the local church? What if there was a group of people within the church to help a child with special needs and his family to thrive? What kind of theology creates the climate for such a ministry? What is the foundation–the undergirding theological perspective that guides a ministry like this?Our church asked that question. The result was Side by Side. During the Friday morning breakout session, my husband and I will share our church’s experience of founding and expanding a ministry to single mothers and to families who have children with special needs. We’ll share the stories of some of the families who have been helped. And we’ll explain our grace-infused theological foundation. And we’ll share the practical steps that have given rise to the surprisingly rapid growth of this ministry and caused other churches to catch on. We’ll also have materials available for those interested in bringing this ministry to their churches.
The conference is filling up–Register soon!

(Image: Rhonda Bowman)