We are located in the centre of a small town. Our church membership is mainly middle-class, with many City workers among our congregation. A lot of the dads work extremely long hours and miss seeing their children during the week, which means that weekends are a vital time for catching up with family. One knock-on impact of this seems to be that Sevenoaks men often do not have the opportunity to form friendships with other men. Those on the fringe of our church often stay there without ever getting more involved.
The idea for the Dad & Co mission came from one member of the church family, who got it from another local church. He and I approached a number of dads within the congregation and tried to gauge interest.
Once we felt there was enough, we printed publicity cards and distributed them after Sunday services and via the midweek meeting for mums with pre-school children.
To quote from our own invitation card, Dad & Co is: ‘a chance to spend some time with your kids and other dads’, with ‘activities provided for children aged five and under’, and ‘newspapers, coffee and bacon rolls for the dads.’ The idea was to create a forum similar to the midweek meeting for mums, enabling dads within the church family and especially those on the fringe to build and develop friendships with other dads. Our Saturday morning meetings – which have taken place monthly throughout 2008 – have no overt gospel element, but invitation cards for other events such as guest services and Christianity Explored are prominently displayed, and there is always a notices slot where we plug these. We also encourage those dads who are actively involved in the church to come along and get to know the other guys. During the summer holidays we held two curry nights instead of our Saturday meetings, and these were very well supported. We took this as a very encouraging sign that dads were coming along to Dad & Co not simply because they didn’t know how else to amuse their children on a Saturday morning, but because they were making friends with other men in the group.
In October-November 2008 we ran a men-only Christianity Explored course in the local pub, with a major part of our recruiting effort aimed at those who attended Dad & Co. Four of our Dad & Co guys came along.
Ever since our first Dad & Co event – which was attended by 41 dads (we had expected 15-20) – we have had good numbers at each of our Saturday gatherings. Pretty much every month we see new faces as well as guys coming back. There does seem to be a slight increase in the number of dads coming along to Sunday services as well, though it is difficult to know to how much of this is due to Dad & Co. A real encouragement has been to see the increasing commitment of some of our already involved dads, who now come along faithfully each month looking out for the newcomers to befriend. We pray too for other ongoing benefits, such as for our keen church wives to be encouraged by seeing their husbands take a greater part in the life of our church. And of course we continue to pray that some of these guys - who were once on or beyond the fringe - will form and develop a commitment to Jesus Christ and to God’s people.