It was Tiffany Sobjak’s first pregnancy, and the unknowns made her nervous. She joined the Cradle Care ministry at Lexington Baptist Church, which meant she had a team of women praying for her and her unborn baby, along with a mentor who stayed in contact with her throughout the pregnancy. The support was especially meaningful when she encountered an unexpected medical situation.
“I had a scare, and Pam Turner met us at the hospital to pray with us,” Sobjak said. “It was a blessing to have her when I needed her, and I could feel everyone’s prayers. Then after the baby was born, I was so grateful and overwhelmed with the kindness and love. It meant so much.”
Turner coordinates the prayer ministry that currently includes 15 mentors who, as this story was being written, were encouraging and praying for nine expectant mothers. It’s the type of ministry that can change minute by minute, as the team has had up to five births in one month and prayed for 87 babies since Turner started coordinating the ministry in 2014.
“When this began, we wanted to have a different kind of ministry to encourage and pray with expectant mothers, and then draw them into the children’s ministry,” Turner said. “It’s exciting to be a part of something that touches people’s lives.”
Maegan Bolding, Lexington Baptist’s children’s ministry director and Cradle Care participant, says the prayer ministry has helped the church identify expectant parents and then connects the family to other church ministries once the baby is born.
“Cradle Care ministry has helped us have a consistent voice in the lives of young mothers,” said Bolding. “Now, before a child comes to the nursery, we’ll know them. It creates trust that we know details about their baby before the nursery workers even meet the child. It’s a way for our church to influence a child before they’re even born.”
Prayer is the foundation of the Cradle Care ministry. Turner’s process for identifying potential mentors was methodical, as she spent days on end praying for God to reveal women who were faithful to their own families, understood pregnancies and how hormones and emotions can affect young mothers, and who might be committed prayer warriors. Mentors of all ages have been on the prayer team, including one woman in her 80s.
Turner considers personalities of both mentors and mothers in the pairing process. Mentors agree to pray for, encourage, and contact their mentees regularly and promise not to discourage expectant mothers with negative pregnancy discussions. They are asked to check in with their mentees at least weekly and report any prayer requests and updates to Turner each Monday. The larger team meets monthly to pray as a group. Mentors are supplied with a daily devotion book to give to each expectant mother, along with notecards to send as needed. Mentors remain in touch with the mothers until six weeks after birth.
Turner says the ministry grows through word-of-mouth. The church shares contacts with her as pregnancies are announced, and sometimes she approaches expectant mothers she sees at the church. The mothers’ privacy is fiercely protected, and Turner assures them that their situations and prayer requests will not be shared beyond the prayer team. “No one has turned down being mentored, except for some on their subsequent pregnancies. But those are still prayed for and visited,” she said.
The team has prayed for unwed mothers, couples in marital crises, adoptions, miscarriages, and a few babies who needed special care following birth. The ministry is open not just to church members; in fact, 10 couples have joined Lexington Baptist Church because of their connection with Cradle Care. That was the case for Erica Pye and her family. Now Pye is a mentor in the ministry.
“We had just moved to Lexington and didn’t have a network in the community,” said Pye. “Our older child was in preschool at Lexington Baptist, but our experience with this ministry is the reason we joined. My mentor was perfect for what I needed. She was genuine and loved Jesus. She would text prayers to me and helped me transition to being a mom of two.”
Pye admits that becoming a mentor was daunting at first, but says it’s been meaningful to invest in other moms. “I don’t have all the answers, but I can pray for that mom, check in on her, and love her,” she said. “The days of having a new baby are beautiful, but it’s also tough, and we need prayers. I want to be that light for someone else, knowing what I felt at that same stage.”
Turner spends several hours each week reaching out to the mothers, staying in contact with mentors, and planning hospital visits. She keeps lists of expectant mothers, due dates and new arrivals, and she emails mentors and mothers with encouraging words and Bible verses each week. Turner asks that expectant couples call or text her when they go into labor, and then she notifies the team to begin praying.
“There’s nothing better than getting to a mama and praying over her baby first, or contacting them as they go to the hospital, or texting reminders during the delivery that they are covered in prayer,” she said.
When a baby is born, Turner and Bolding pray with the families in the hospital. They deliver a gift bag from the church containing a onesie with the children’s ministry logo, a diaper bag tag, a children’s book and a music CD. The ministry also provides a burp cloth, personalized with the baby’s initials, and a knitted hat. A team of women deliver a homemade casserole to the family after they return home.
Lexington Baptist holds monthly baby dedications and invites all mothers in the ministry to participate. An annual Cradle Care ministry banquet also gives mentors and families who have had a baby during the previous year another chance to engage.
“This ministry has created a neat community for mothers, based around the children who have come through it,” Bolding said.
According to Katie Whitaker, prayer strategist with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, churches should have a variety of ways in which people can be involved in prayer — one of the convention’s priority focus areas. With Lexington Baptist’s Cradle Care ministry, simplicity is key in bonding faith and prayer together for eternal impacts on families.
“These are spiritually minded women who are actively seeking God in their own lives and showing the unconditional love of our Lord,” said Whitaker. “Not all pregnancies end in joyful moments. Not all families are strong units bonded together through a saving knowledge of the Creator. Sometimes we are the only ones standing in the gap for another person.”
For her part, Turner says she continually sees God at work through prayer. “I have seen mentors come into a deeper prayer relationship with the Lord, and we see miracle after miracle happen because of prayer. Mentors and moms who’ve experienced this have seen God work and, as a result, they are serious about their relationship with the Lord.”
— Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.