“Even Jesus was born of a teenage mom,” said Janell Rottier of First Christian Reformed Church in Crown Point, Ind.
An enthusiastic mother of three, Rottier poured herself into launching a Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry at her church last fall. “The first year we had over 30 teen moms walk through our doors on Thursday nights,” said Rottier. “Over 95 percent of them had never even set foot in a church before.”
Angela, a Teen MOPS participant, attends the group with her baby.
But by the time summer came, Rottier said she realized that many young mothers were coming and going without much commitment or real impact on their lives.
“We decided we wanted to actually change lives, make a difference. To encourage a new generation to do that, we had to make some changes,” she explained.
So this fall, Rottier and the other leaders set up what they call an “accountability system.” They selected nine teen moms and matched each with a mentoring volunteer.
“We had found through the course of last year that these girls needed more then just two hours of child-free time—they needed stability, love, support, encouragement, and some help overcoming the big obstacles in their lives,” she said. “We’re trying to help them get through these obstacles that seem impossible. It’s overwhelming, but we also have an all-powerful God.”
To Sarah, one of the teen moms, the group has been life-changing. “I have never felt like I belong anywhere,” she said. “And I have never been a part of a group before. In this group not only do I feel accepted but I know I belong here. It is the highlight of my week!”
Kim Oostman is Sarah’s mentoring mom. “Being a mom myself I know there are difficult times and struggles of being a mom. . . . . Everyone needs a support group, and that is what we are trying to be for these teen moms,” she said.
This year, the meetings focus on practical skills: resume writing, job interview skills, budget-friendly cooking, money management, and so on. A Christian counseling agency provides group counseling at some meetings.
The young women write out three-, six-, and 12-month goals with their mentors and then are held accountable for keeping those goals through the year. They must let leaders know if they are unable to attend.
In return, participants get help with their “biggest need—for some it’s just monthly supply of diapers; for others it’s bigger issues like a car,” Rottier said.