Hi I'm Sarah. I'd like to talk about the families' work we're doing @ St Andrews.
Basically, there is the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" and I am finding this is definitely the case!
By way of background — I come from a non-Christian upbringing and only started to learn vaguely about God when I was in my 20s. I grew up on the Isle of Wight with my parents and brother but we had no family there and I was always very aware of this and jealous of friends who had relatives living nearby. We tended to see my grandparents once a year during the summer for a week.
My husband and I moved to Eastleigh in 2007 when I was pregnant and we knew no one. After my first child I was born, I felt very lost and alone as we had no support network.
After Jesus came into my life in roughly 2011.....slowly...... everything started to change.
One of my main constant prayers to God during this time was for God to give me close friends and a church family, which I so desperately needed. In 2015, when I was questioning my faith, a friend of mine asked me to come to St Andrews with her. Everything started to change rapidly from that point and God answered my prayer.
Within the last few years we have had a steady influx of families joining our church, so we thought it would be a great idea to have a regular families group meet up monthly where we could share parenting ideas and support each other. Parenting today is really hard, so its great to have this group. Whilst we learn, the kids watch a movie and we come together for a takeaway to finish.
Since forming, we have done the Parent talk course and discussed homework and exams. Next month we're looking at the love languages, and we're hoping to start the Raising Faith course in the autumn.
God has shown me that we may struggle, but we don't journey alone. Jesus made us for community and (as Rachel Turner says in her excellent book "It takes a Church to raise a Parent": "God designed parenting to be rooted within the body of Christ, because it is an effective way of strengthening parents and discipling children.
We are starting a new initiative called Board @ Church in the Autumn which is intergenerational; it encourages all generations to get together and have fun playing boardgames etc. I'm praying that this is successful as something like this is really needed.
I am learning that with Jesus, ANYTHING is possible, and I am excited to see where the Holy Spirit is leading us next.