For Wrung-Out Moms, Its Mops
By Sue Kafer
There were eight of us-all mothers of young children - and we were beginning to go a little stir crazy. We felt lonesome, isolated, and a little inadequate at the thought of raising a child.
Since we were all members of Trinity Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, we began meeting there twice a month just for the company. Sharing the cost of a nursery worker, we appreciated the time off from the kids and the chance to commiserate, but it wasn’t long before we were wondering how to make “morn’s morning out” more productive. What should we do together?
Devotionals left us unsatisfied. Likewise with our attempts at Bible studies - we already were in other Bible studies. We needed something else.
We wanted to develop friendships. Being involved in church didn’t exempt us from loneliness.
We loved our modern appliances, but they only seemed to build more isolation into our lives. We remembered our mothers talking about sharing household responsibilities with their mothers and sisters. Many of our families lived out of state. How are friendships developed in a mobile society where families are transferred every year or two?
We saw we needed to express creativity, to learn new skills, and to use our talents. Times for these were too often interrupted at home by toddlers’ demands and tiny fingers. Talents had been shelved in lieu of homemaking.
We wanted to see God’s Word in light of our own personal lives, as women, wives, and mothers. We desired to see his will regarding discipline, self-esteem, budgets, and family fun.
Out of those desires, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) gradually took shape That was in 1972. Over the past 10 years, our purpose has remained the same: to glorify Christ, who meets our needs by providing direction for each life he creates, and to provide a caring ministry for young women through an atmosphere of love and acceptance where the Holy Spirit can work.
During that time MOPS has spread, by word of mouth and through transplanted members, to 25 different churches in Colorado and several others nationwide. Each program is unique, operating within the structure of the local church and led by women in the church.
Child abuse is the number two killer of children under five years old, and MOPS can be a deterrent, especially as we establish groups in apartment complexes, where the problem is most acute.
When our family moved to Littleton, a south suburb of Denver, it wasn’t long before I was able to start a MOPS group in our new church. Since 1976 our group at Bear Valley Baptist has grown to 125 and has split into two sessions - one on Tuesdays, one on Wednesdays. About 70 percent of the Tuesday group are unchurched women.
What do we do? Nothing spectacular, but the simple format allows young mothers to be themselves, be accepted, and befriend others. Our twice-monthly program is usually structured like this:
9:30 to 10 A.M. - announcements, refreshments, icebreakers
10 to 11 A.M. - teaching time, small-group discussions
11 A.M. to noon - crafts
The goal of the teaching time is summed up in Titus 2:4 - older women helping to “train the younger women to love their husbands and children.” The teaching leader - a woman who is mature in the faith - may focus on inner beauty, family recreation ideas, how to be a friend, building self-esteem in children, controlling TV viewing, or disciplining in love. It’s not overtly evangelistic, but everything is done from a biblical perspective.
Teaching time is followed by discussion, with small groups responding to prepared questions. We try to be non-threatening, but the goal is self-examination and open sharing.
Occasionally we’ll have a guest speaker for a topic like poison control, or perhaps we’ll invite a beautician to demonstrate how to cut children’s hair. We’ve learned cake decorating and bread making. But the highlight of MOPS is the craft time. Wonderful things happen around the craft tables. Morns discuss personal problems and share joys. Friendships develop. Creative talents are exercised. Skills are acquired.
All our projects are inexpensive but quality items, things that can be finished in one or two sessions. We’ve made spice ropes, bread-dough art, quilted picture frames, and children’s “grow sticks” (decorated yard sticks that attach to the wall.) Making something of value builds self-esteem, and as the finished products are displayed in homes, they become an advertisement for MOPS and a drawing card for friends and neighbors.
During the MOPS program, the children (MOPPETS) are also well cared for, and this in itself attracts many women. Babies get quality nursery care while preschoolers through kindergarten age enjoy a program similar to Sunday school. Sometimes the children will go on a field trip or have guests such as a policeman, fireman, or puppeteer.
Value of MOPS to Moms
Often a mother is more open to spiritual teaching for her child than for herself and will come to MOPS for the child’s sake. But when mothers are confident their children are well-tended, they’re more receptive themselves.
As one young mother, Rhonda Kritner, put it: “Three years ago, I first visited MOPS, primarily, I must admit, to take advantage of the “mom’s day out.” As the weeks passed, however, I found the meetings became more and more important.” Rhonda eventually received Christ, and now, after moving across town, is helping start MOPS at New Hope Community Church in Aurora.
Long before Rhonda recognized the spiritual need in her life, she was listening to her daughter tell what she’d learned about Jesus’ birth and life.
In essence, MOPS is women ministering to women. One mother shared last spring that her neighbor had led her to Christ on their way home from MOPS. A relationship had been established, lines of communication had been opened, and that particular morning the teaching (on intimacy in marriage) had sparked some questions. The neighbor was now able to share her testimony for the first time.
There had been very few opportunities for this young Christian to relay her walk with Christ to others. With small children, it had been difficult to find quiet moments to share. MOPS had given her that outlet. MOPS also provides other creative outreaches. Brunches a couple of times a year are very special. Dinners for MOPS and their husbands are always successful, but as in a MOPS meeting, there’s no high-pressure evangelism and no push to come to church, just a spirit of acceptance and love that will often draw them back on a Sunday morning.
The subtle message pervading our society today is that for a young woman to find fulfillment, she must be in a career outside the home. The philosophy of MOPS disagrees. We believe there are choices, and if a mother opts to remain at home, she has chosen a very influential and important career.
Through MOPS, young women gain confidence, spiritual maturity, and are challenged to reach out to others. Perhaps most gratifying of all is to see them motivated to become godly wives and others.
1. Talk with mothers of preschoolers to see of there is interest in forming such a group. If there is -
2. Have two or three mothers talk with your priest about
a) forming the group.
b) the program.
c) which woman or women would make good leaders for the discussion, the craft program, the child care.
The child care would involve hiring one or two persons to take care of the babies, and to work with the pre- school and kindergartners, most ideally to give them a program similar to Church School. Group funding would be needed to pay for their services.
If child care persons are not available, mothers could work out caring for the children on a rotation basis.
3. Each leader (discussion, craft, child care) would need to be responsible for planning their part of the morning, getting supplies, refreshments, etc. They would be encouraged to call on the priest and church school director as resource people. From time to time, for the discussion period, the leader can invite the priest and others in the community to address issues in which the group has particular interest.
4. Get your leaders. Set your program, site, dates, fee. Send out notices to all mothers of preschoolers on your church mailing list. Encourage mothers to come, through the priest’s announcement in church and in the church bulletin. As you develop, you may want to include neighborhood friends.
5. At the initial meetings, discuss the purpose and goals of the program so that everyone has a clear idea of what to expect.
Copyright LEADERSHIP 100, 1983. Used by permission.