DOVER – Shirley Sanchez, a young mother to children Kyle and Liam, has a wealth of experience in early childhood education and social services. As the Children, Family and Youth Coordinator at Grace United Methodist Church in Dover, engaging children is not only her responsibility as a mom, but her job at the church.
Last year, she organized a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) chapter at the church to support and inspire mothers of pre-school children to establish more relationships within the local community, but the program struggled to find women to participate much to the dismay of Sanchez and Grace UMC Pastor Tricia Piazza.
“We thought MOPS would be a good program but we struggled with it. Then one evening at the ‘Soccer Through Scouting’ program at First UMC, our sister church in Dover, Shirley noted that there were moms just waiting around for their sons while they were playing soccer. We found out there was a room available for the moms and Shirley to use,” Piazza said. “Our community has many families of single parent households and our town has a large Hispanic population. We wanted to try to begin another support group with the purpose of providing a safe place for these mothers to help build them up, find encouragement and allow them to have time for themselves while knowing that their children are being taken care of.”
Sanchez and Piazza decided to form a partnership with First UMC‘s soccer ministry.
“We formed a new pack of scouts. First UMC provided the facility and the leaders and Grace UMC provides the soccer coach and organization representatives,” said Sanchez. “And because many of these mothers are single moms who would wait with other young children as their children participated, Grace UMC decided to host a women’s group at the same time called the ‘Inspiring Women’s Group.’ It has been well-received by the moms and we are now working to build consistent attendance.”
Originally the MOPS group was supposed to serve mothers of preschoolers, but once it shifted location and became Inspiring Women’s Group mothers of kindergarten through fifth graders began attending. According to Sanchez, the majority of the families attending are working Hispanic.
“Currently we are serving mothers of the boys who are registered in the scouting program,” she added. “Families are welcome to register their sons in kindergarten through fifth grade for soccer training and Cub Scout meetings at First UMC.”
Sanchez, who runs the Inspiring Women’s Group twice a month, added that it is humbling to help moms have a space for themselves, building their confidence with yoga and learning how to refocus and think about their next steps in life, personally and spiritually.
“Grace UMC felt that this would be a great ministry since there are many single mothers who do not have a good support system which can lead to depression. Our hopes are to provide a safe space to minister to these women through building relationships, discussing how to move forward with a positive outlook and providing space for exercise. All of these aid in fighting depression and help to build up low self-esteem,” Piazza said.
Sanchez continued that working with the women’s group has increased her faith in “knowing what God’s purpose is for her life.”
“Our church recognizes the need to become a multi-cultural congregation,” said Piazza. “We hope that by supporting the scouting program and the Inspiring Women’s Group we will be able to bring more diversity to our church, effectively changing the perception of those in the community.”
If your church is interested in starting a small group that acts also as a community outreach or meets a specific need, contact Rev. Gina Yeske, Director of Small Groups at (732)-359-1042 or send her an email at email@example.com. Grace UMC is located at 98 North Sussex Street in Dover, N.J. For more information call the church at 973-366-3681 or visit www.umc.org