Why the Parent Cafe works so well

Ask most parents what they most need within their busy schedules, and they might say an occasional safe place to talk and share and be supported in what is one of the most difficult jobs in the world: being a good parent.

Here is an early poster for the Parent Cafe, welcoming harried parents to a night of learning and mutual support.

The May/Jun Faith Today features a story about an innovative and effective ministry to meet this need created by New Song Church in Port Perry, Ont., a congregation of the Anglican Network in Canada. In the spirit of full disclosure, that was the church where my husband served for the last five years. I was involved in the Parent Cafe ministry from the beginning, and I’m convinced this elegant idea can easily be transplanted into other congregations, especially in areas where there might not be visible social problems to help solve, but more hidden needs, like support and community for busy parents and families stretched in 100 directions.

The idea is simple: When parents get better, the whole family gets better. Parenting is one of the most difficult (and most rewarding!) things in the world and it’s easier and better when parents support each other and freely share their knowledge and experience.

The Parent Cafe is an evening for parents to learn from an expert guest and each other. It is a friendly, supportive environment for parents facing the normal joys, frustrations, questions and challenges of parenting great kids of all ages in today’s world. There is no cost and free babysitting is provided by the church.

A small committee runs the outreach and together identify some pressing needs they think could be met by a guest speaker. Then they search out the guest speaker and offer them a modest honorarium.

The Parent Cafe at New Song has featured speakers on ADHD, anxiety in children, online safety (local police officers are usually available to speak), practical ways to simplify Christmas, how to teach children about faith at home, and more. The church is committed to offering three or more Parent Cafes a year. They keep it simple, setting up tables and chairs and providing tea, coffee, cookies and fruit. There are brochures available to share information on other things the church is involved with, with an invitation to attend worship. And that’s it.

Parents and grandparents from within the church but also from the broader community attend. Sometimes it’s a large group, sometimes a small, intimate gathering. Either way, that frantically busy, stretched and undernourished part of the community that are parents trying to do their best are being served with this simple idea.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. You can read the May/Jun issue online and subscribe here

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