I’ve been running a Teen MOPS group for 13 years, and even though the teen moms now have smart phones, they take selfies, and they connect with each other (and us leaders) on Facebook and Instagram, nothing much has changed about our group format for the last decade. Why? From the beginning, I tried to figure out what the basic needs of the teen mom were, and how we could meet them. And it’s worked! We’ve had successful groups and we’ve seen teen moms grow and change through the years.
Here are 5 practical steps to running a Teen MOPS group.
1. Feed Them & Give Them a Break
The first practical step to leading a Teen MOPS group is to meet each young mom’s basic needs. It’s really hard to sit through a meeting when your stomach is growling. It’s also really hard to sit through a meeting if you’re trying to care for your baby at the same time.
We provide a meal for our moms on most nights. We have groups or individuals sign up to bring meals, and about half of our meals are provided for us by people other than our leaders. Pizza and snacks works for the other nights!
We also provide free childcare for our moms. We know young moms are often tired and need a break, knowing that loving volunteers are caring from their children allows them to relax and enjoy the meeting.
In addition, we have a baby store filled with donated items and we provide diapers every week. Basically, we want to help them provide for their baby’s needs and give these moms a little peace less to worry about in the process.
2. Wear a Smile & Make it Fun
Teen MOPS groups are made up of … teenagers. When they arrive, welcome them with a smile and make the atmosphere lighthearted. Have a schedule, but don’t watch the clock or get stressed about “everything getting done.” (Remember the people are more important than the activities.) Offer door prizes and do crafts once every few months. The more relaxed you are, the more welcomed the young moms will feel.
3. Making it An Atmosphere of Learning & Growing
Teen MOPS groups are a safe place for teen moms to learn and grow. It’s wonderful to bring in people to share inspiring stories or useful information, but let speaker know ahead of time that it’s not an “us vs. them” meeting. Instead, open up communication between the speaker and the moms early on. Before you turn the meeting over to the speaker, ask questions about his or her family. Help the teen moms see that this person is just like them. During question and answer time, encourage the leaders jump in with questions of their own. Let the teen moms know that we all have areas where we can grow and learn together!
4. Work through a Book Like Teen Mom: Your Stronger Than You Think Together
Sometimes it’s hard to broach certain topics with young moms such as: recommitting to purity, forgiving after being sexually abused, or bad boyfriends, but Teen Mom covers these topics. Reading the chapters and answering questions together helps you to broach subjects that might be too difficult to bring up. It also gives the teen moms a chance to open up and share their experiences and they talk through the answers to the questions.
5. Give Then Hope By Sharing Jesus
When I first started leading a Teen MOPS group, I was so nervous about saying the “J-word”: Jesus. I didn’t want to scare them away. I didn’t want them to think I was some crazy Bible lady. But I’ve found that they want to hear about God, prayer, and having Someone to hope in.
We start our meetings with a short devotional talk by one of our leaders. We have free Bibles and Christian books available. At the end of the meeting we gather in one big circle, hold hands, and then one of the leaders prays. Years from now a teen mom might not remember all the details about carseat safety or how to create a perfect job resume, but I want her to never forget that Jesus loves them and has good plans for her life. I want her to know that God’s Word applies to our everyday circumstances, and Jesus will always be there when we cry out to Him.
And I guarantee if you cover 1-4, they’ll believe #5 … because they seen God’s love lived out before them.
About Teen Mom
Everything changes the day you discover you’re going to be a mom. It’s not just yourself that you think about—you have a child to care for, too. While you wouldn’t trade your child for the world, some days are just hard. Baby-daddy drama, dealing with your parents, and worries about school, work, and your future slam you. Your friends can’t relate to your little family, and you wonder if God has turned His back on you, too.
Tricia Goyer understands. A mom at age 17, Tricia remembers what it felt like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. She’s also been the coordinator of a teen mom support group for over twelve years, and she’s cheered on many young moms—from all walks of life—through their journey.
In Teen Mom, Tricia pours out her heart and shares advice for the hard things you face. She also longs to provide encouragement, reminding you that you can be the mom your child deserves—not in your own strength, but in the strength God provides.
USA Today bestselling author Tricia Goyer is the author of more than 50 books, including Teen Mom: You Are Stronger Than You Think, and the novelization for Moms’ Night Out. She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs for high traffic sites like TheBetterMom.com and MomLifeToday.com. Tricia and her husband, John, live in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Tricia coordinates a Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. They have six children.
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