"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

All Moms Is an Excellent Alternative to MOPS

All Moms, Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma, September 2017
Sarah Wilkins has been the MOPS Coordinator at Emmanuel Enid for our Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry for the last several years. She and her MOPS leadership committee have done an amazing job reaching out to moms in our community with encouragement, support, and the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Over a year ago Sarah wrote an Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International. She expressed a strong concern that MOPS was departing from the gospel of Jesus Christ in the curriculum that MOPS was sending to their various local church MOPS ministries around the world.  The Open Letter sparked a broad, wide-ranging online conversation. Many MOPS church leaders felt some of the same concerns Sarah Wilkins expressed through her Open Letter. I know by measuring reader statistics of that particular post that Sarah struck a chord in the hearts of tens of thousands of local church leaders who have used MOPS materials in their ministry to young mothers. 

After the publication of her Open Letter, Sarah Wilkins began leading the former Emmanuel MOPS Leadership Team to start a new ministry to mothers that they called All Moms. What follows below is an explanation from Sarah Wilkins as to "Why?" and "How?" All Moms came into existence. Sarah's passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her desire is for young mothers to know that the only answer for the problems they face in life are found in the Person and work of Jesus on their behalf. If you have any further questions about All Moms and would like to communicate with Sarah Wilkins privately, you may contact her at sarah.wilkinsdevconsulting@gmail.com.

An Explanation from Sarah Wilkins Regarding ALL MOMS

"Last year our local MOPS group was struggling with tough questions surrounding what to do next. 
Ceasing to exist was not an option. We needed a solid plan to be ready for the women in our community. Due to the content of MOPS materials in 2016, we were on our own and we scrambled together materials for our local moms. Our thoughts turned to what we would need to do for the future.  After 25 plus years of being an official MOPS group, how would we continue without MOPS?

MOPS used to be exclusively a parachurch organization which only partnered with churches who agreed with their conservative statement of faith, starting this month, they also partner with women who are not associated with any church in a new format listed as “Gatherings” on their website. This is a new announcement, and materials are not available for preview. 

With the current church model MOPS, a church pays a fee to MOPS and then lay women run the program.  In my experience, it was and is unusual for pastoral staff to be heavily involved with a MOPS group, but MOPS groups are distinctly marketed to the conservative faith community including a conservative statement of faith on the contract. In exchange for registering a MOPS group, the lay leadership receives theme information, graphics pieces, in meeting DVD teaching series, and leadership training material.

The lay leadership of each MOPS chapter collects dues from women and additional money to operate their own local group. MOPS asks to receive $20-$30 per woman in exchange for individual registration of each woman.  MOPS sends each woman who registers a packet of theme information and quarterly magazines.  It also seeks to connect with the women on a more regular basis on social media. In 2016-2017, I think the printed materials crossed over the structure that the statement of faith should have provided.  This year, the materials available online seem to stay a little closer to the gospel as described in the official statement of faith but still do not clearly present Jesus as an essential part of the materials.  The goal seems to be neutrality, to cast a very broad net and not offend with the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. 

MOPS newly introduced format “Gatherings”, which appears to be outside the parachurch
partnership model, allows any woman to become her own group outside of the church setting. They are topical 6-week community building segments.  I have not seen any of the materials, but President Mandy Arioto mentioned these in a Vimeo leadership call video that was posted last summer. Her vision was to move MOPS outside of the church and into places like coffee shops.  My suspicion is that these segments are secular and most likely inclusive of all belief systems. In her book Starry Eyed, released last year, Arioto referenced John Philip Newell who believes Jesus came not to provide atonement, a concept he openly laughs at in YouTube videos, but to bring human oneness… community. To Newell community includes all faiths. Jesus is not necessary for salvation.  The “Gathering” concept and printed materials MOPS have been producing seem to point towards the oneness in motherhood goal. To me, this is purely a civic goal and not a purpose regularly seen in the conservative church. A civic good is not a terrible thing. It is however outside of what is considered a ministry purpose.

It is for these reasons, that I still suggest church pastoral staff review materials coming from MOPS International. Specifically, I think the pastoral staff needs to know what the regular registered mom receives in the mail directly from the organization. I also think it would be wise for pastoral staff to know the discipleship level of lay leadership, and how comfortable they are with sharing Biblical gospel truth.

Without a ministry in a box arriving for my church group, our steering team worked hard to create our own. We agreed on a theme based on what we saw in our local women and opened a writing compilation group on Facebook.  We invited all the bloggers we knew and received submissions from local moms and former MOPS moms in different states.  We found a local mom gifted in by hand word art, and she agreed to largely donate her work.  Then we chose a name.

We went with the name All Moms. Over the years we found ourselves repeating “it’s for all moms.” All moms is the answer to so many questions.  The verbal ones and the unsaid communications of facial expression and body language that read skepticism.

The skeptic thinks:

Is this group of moms that meets at a church really for me? Is this some type of bait and switch trap? Will the room be full of glam moms with pockets full of money, or moms who have clean minivans and a vocabulary remiss of four-letter words? Will I be the only woman with real problems walking into a room of moms who have it together?”

Will they care that I’m not married?
Will they care that I don’t go to church?
Will they see that I’m lonely and talk to me?
Will they see me as valuable, or will they pass over me because I’m somehow not enough or not what they want?

The answer has been and continues to be that all moms are welcome.  This year we are at 98 registered mommas; half are new. There is no “club”, no social standing necessary, you can come into this group with your new mom smell and we will celebrate you (for me the new mom smell is spit up and sweat- possibly dry shampoo.)  You can come in with your makeup on, freshly showered with an amazing casserole and two kids wearing clothes AND shoes, and we will celebrate you.

I love seeing the panorama of women walk in.  God placed these women onto Earth within the wombs of all kinds of women.  Some were introduced by family members to Jesus as young girls and continue to walk with Him.  Some were introduced to Jesus as young girls, but have chosen broad paths that led them away from Truth only to find themselves at a crossroads inside a church staring at an opportunity to hop back on the narrow path with a Savior who pursues them.  Some women, equally loved by their heavenly father, have yet to be introduced to Him.  They have walked their journeys into adulthood on their “own”; experienced pain, loss, and struggle on their own.  When they walk into All Moms, we see that God has orchestrated their lives to a path in which they will receive an introduction to the gospel.

Our theme this year is Re-frame: Truth, Value & Purpose. 
Ephesians 2:10 NLT is the Biblical truth the theme is built upon.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

When our 100+ women come together, it is our goal to take them into a place of connectedness and encouragement through re-framing every-day life with truth. We want to paint a new picture of everything and every person.  We want each woman to hear that she is viewed by her creator as a masterpiece.  We want to help erase the distortions and cloudy lenses Satan has created. We want to help the women develop new eyesight based upon the truth of the gospel. We want them to hear it in what we say and read it within the Re-frame compilation.

Almost half of our women do not identify themselves with a church. They will hear speakers, coming from a Christian worldview, on a broad range of topics. At each table, there is a peer leader and a wiser older woman who have realized that part of the “good things” in God’s plan for them is to encourage women to experience being valued and think about life from a new gospel truth perspective.

This year our leadership team of volunteer mommas represents eight churches within our community.  Together we meet to plan details, study Bible passages, think of ways to improve loving on our moms, and pray. They are wonderful women. They have availed themselves to encountering women in our community.

I can say for certain that there are mothers all over the United States who would come into a church on a blind invite. Loneliness is a human condition that existed before the fall. Loneliness in early motherhood is exacerbated by the magnitude of the desire to parent well. Loneliness and the crushing standards of parenting well create a weariness and need for encouragement.  Women are hungry for it.

We will continue our work to encounter and encourage women in our community.  We have a new name, and lots of additional work was required, but we know it’s worth it because the women are here. The field is white with harvest. This is the community in which the Lord has us. All Moms builds opportunity for friendship. Friendship based on gospel truth that leads to freedom.

I reviewed all I could from the 2017-2018 MOPS International theme.  In my opinion, they are sticking with the method to “broaden the net” with their materials leaving it up to local groups to add as much Jesus/Christianity as they want back in. I still question the reasoning and wisdom behind this move.  No woman sees MOPS printed material before she registers. It is not the broadened materials that lead to more women attending who don’t know Christ.  It is not their printed materials that reach the women to come into a MOPS group.  Each local group invites women and markets themselves. Each local group creates or destroys an atmosphere that welcomes all kinds of women.

Since exposure to the printed, audiovisual, and digital materials from MOPS are something that occurs throughout the year but not before a mom registers, I do not understand the broadening. How much Christian worldview and gospel truth a mom hears at a MOPS meeting will vary depending on the lay steering team.  Under MOPS old model, this was not so.  Jesus was in the materials, the magazines, the meeting DVD topics.  A host church could have a mom lead the group, who wasn’t deeply discipled, and the women would still encounter Jesus.

I think that long-term, this new model endangers the efficacy of MOPS International as a parachurch organization. The new “gathering” group option may be completely secular including views far outside MOPS Internationals statement of faith, I cannot say for certain because I have not yet seen the future Mops materials. That's why we created All Moms. I wanted to be sure what was being taught was the gospel.

If the move away from the gospel continues in MOPS, what happens when a pastor learns that the women attending the MOPS group in his church building for nine months have learned about multiple ways to release their shame and that Jesus Christ and His work on the cross were never mentioned as an essential for a woman's shame being released?  Does the pastor continue to trust the MOPS organization meeting in his church building that forsakes the gospel?  Does the pastor choose to begin vetting the MOPS steering team for how much Jesus they plan on adding back in what is being taught? These questions for a local church are very important ones that must be answered if MOPS continues as a ministry within a local church. All Moms insures that the good news of Jesus Christ is primary. 

Looking forward, if MOPS changes their method of reaching mothers back to a gospel-centered ministry, we will happily rejoin. It’s a lot of work for lay volunteers to pull together their own program. But until MOPS reforms, we will be doing the work and looking for like-minded groups to share our materials for free. If anyone is interested in what we put together, feel free to email me at sarah.wilkinsdevconsulting@gmail.com."

4 comments:

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Thrilling read!

There is an example of the outworking of Ephesians 4:12-16 in a congregation.

FANTASTIC!! The pastor is a shepherd walking in front of Christ's sheep, leading, but not driving the flock,and Christ's sheep begin to be ministers.

"to equip the saints for the work of ministry"

Pege' said...

High Five!!

Paul Burleson said...

On the topic of evaluating old church programs and creating new ones, hyperbole has become the order of the day. Reacting to this “over-the-top” praise existing for most big name programs, many people, including me, now turn a deaf ear to EITHER complaints OR praise for ANY church program as a worthy tool. I usually start reading with a yawn and then awaken after a nodding off, to go somewhere else for a read.

Imagine my surprise when I begin reading this evaluation that ACTUALLY evaluates with details and WITHOUT rancor, then provides other details advocating for a change and moves toward something better WITH BOTH humility and honesty. Frankly, I’m blown away with the quality of this whole presentation. Way to go SARAH!!

[No one is doubting it is the Lord who has done it and who is the point of it all, I’m just celebrating a tool He’s chosen to use.]

Wade Burleson said...

I agree.

Sarah has gone about this with the right attitude and a view toward a solution rather than condemnation.