By Karen Roberts
An older woman approached the MOPS display table in the foyer of a local Church of God. “So, are you selling cleaning products?” she asked. Her question is common. The answer is surprising. No, it’s not a floor product company. Yes, it’s a group for moms with small children that meets in local host churches to teach and encourage women—literally all around the world. Many Church of God congregations are discovering the power of the ministry to reach new families in their community.
Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) in Indiana
Indiana has over forty different MOPS groups meeting at churches around the state. Jessii Culp is a young mom and the coordinator of the Mothers of Preschoolers group that meets at East Side Church of God in Anderson. She is also a central Indiana volunteer coach for twenty other area groups. “I started going to MOPS,” Jessii says, “because I needed women in my life who were dealing with the same things I was dealing with as a stay-at-home-mom. At that point in time, meeting other moms and discovering I was not alone on so many ‘mom issues’ was, quite honestly, vital to my survival.”
East Side’s group started twenty years ago. It is the oldest in the area, and its members come from all over the county and adjacent counties. As is true of all MOPS groups, hers is a diverse group, composed of women from all walks of life, all church backgrounds, and those who do not attend any church. “Our goals are to connect moms in friendship and support, introduce them to Jesus if they are not believers, and increase our faith,” says Jessii. “One of the best things that happened this year was having a mom come who was desperate for friends after her third child was born and she quit her job. MOPS became her stepping stone to finding Jesus.”
Meetings typically start with food, followed by social time, and either a guest speaker or a DVD speaker who addresses issues common to moms in their stage of life. Mentor moms, older women from the church who are trained to give support and encourage, also attend the meetings and lead the table discussions. Some groups have craft activities.
The host church provides the meeting place, as well as child care space. A MOPS mom oversees the childcare workers and leads the “MOPS Kids” program, which includes curriculum. Some churches have as many as sixty children in their care.
Annie Nichols is the coordinator of the MOPS group that meets at Madison Park Church in Anderson, which began two years ago with twenty women. This year the group has doubled in size. Why another group in Anderson? “Moms can choose the group that best meets their needs. Madison Park meets on Friday mornings and we have an evening group on Wednesday evenings, too. East Side meets on Thursday mornings. The group at Maple Grove Church of God meets on Monday mornings, and the Elwood group meets on Thursday evenings. Middletown has a group, too.”
Annie, a homeschool mom for a four-year-old and a seven-year-old, says, “MOPS is better than I ever dreamed. Most moms have the same issues, but they are afraid to talk about them. Perfectionism and feeling like a failure have been big issues for us. It’s such a freeing experience to share our stories and help each other out.”
Madison Park’s Facebook page for members only is a lifeline for the moms to share their struggles and ask for help and advice. Annie and her leadership team use it to organize “meal trains” when babies are born and as an ongoing prayer request place. Last year three women experienced a miscarriage, and the page was a great way for everyone to support those women in their grief and recovery time.
In addition to reaching out to each other for support in illnesses, deaths in families, and clothing and gear sharing, MOPS groups seek partnerships in their communities and engage in service projects. The East Side group has done a clothing drive for a nearby elementary school, and Madison Park’s group has provided meals for the local Celebrate Recovery meetings. This summer they will be sponsoring a baby changing station at the farmer’s market that meets at Park Place Church of God.
MOPS Is for All Moms
A mom’s journey is not done when her children are not babies or toddlers anymore. “Moms Next” is an extension of MOPS for mothers whose children are elementary school ages, and it can be offered in conjunction with the regular MOPS program. Some churches offer “Teen MOPS” groups for very young mothers. Some regions of the country have “Military MOPS” groups and groups for young moms in prisons. In an increasing number of countries overseas, churches are discovering they can offer groups specifically for moms who have been in the sex trade industry.
The success is in the statistics, too. According to the 2015–2016 MOPS impact report, 39,000 groups with local leaders were active, 98,000 moms were served, and 4,367 new groups were started.
The organization’s mission statement is: “MOPS International encourages and equips moms of young children to realize their potential as mothers, women and leaders, in relationship with Jesus, and in partnership with the local church.” It has been fulfilling this mission since it began in Colorado in 1973. In 1988, MOPS International was born. The rest is history, available at www.mops.org along with all you might wish to know about how this organization can help your church reach your community’s young moms.
Starting a Group
Any church with a desire to reach young moms can host a group. To learn how, visit the MOPS website (www.mops.org) and click on “Get Started” and “Start a Group.” Most groups are “mom-led,” but a few have been started by older women who see the need in their community and have a church willing to serve as the sponsoring site. A $200 annual group fee provides the church with a kit of materials and access to a wealth of online resources as well as support from regional coaches.
The annual cost for each woman who registers to join a group is $31.95. The amount pays for her participant kit, which includes materials for use in the group and a monthly magazine delivered to her home. Sponsoring churches typically make scholarships available to women in need, and some groups have “fundraisers” to manage the cost of the childcare program.
Finding an Existing Group
An easy first step for churches to get their young moms involved in MOPS to find already existing groups and make contact. To find the groups in your area, go to the website. Click on Get Started and Find a Group. Enter a ZIP code to get a listing of groups in your area along with contact information.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.