Decatur, Ga.

If Patricia Reid had not been actively browsing the Internet last year seeking grants to assist with her seminary education, McClintock Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., might not be celebrating the first anniversary of its life-changing Family Matters Project.

“It was all God’s providence throughout the whole thing,” said Reid, an elder at McClintock Presbyterian Church and a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary at Charlotte.  “When I was searching the PC(USA) website for information regarding the Presbyterian Study Grant, I happened to come across the Presbyterian Mariners Family Ministry Grant. Thanks to that grant, we have just completed a full year of our Family Matters Project.”

The Mariners Family Ministry Grant – administered through the General Assembly Mission Council’s Financial Aid for Studies office – is a program for churches and other Presbyterian organizations to use to create new projects to fund and develop family ministry programs. The grant program is funded from the assets of the Presbyterian Mariners and continues the work of the Mariners to strengthen family ministry. Although the Presbyterian Mariners no longer have a national umbrella organization, numerous Mariners groups continue to thrive in local congregations such as McClintock.

At the McClintock Church – a primarily African-American congregation with an active Mariners ministry – the Family Matters Project is designed to strengthen families by increasing awareness of the many challenges facing children and families today and to encourage guardians to be primarily responsible for the care and guidance of their children. The church conducted four events throughout the school year, with the project culminating in McClintock’s annual Graduation Sunday, which was sponsored by the Mariners.

“McClintock is an example of a congregation that very thoughtfully considered the needs of the community they seek to serve,” said Laura Bryan, associate for Financial Aid for Studies. “Because that thinking was carefully reflected in the proposal they wrote, we were delighted to award the grant.”

Reid led the effort with the support and active involvement of the church community.  “We could not have done this without our session’s support,” she said. “The Mariners were also very supportive in coordinating the workshops.”

Because Reid is also a fulltime guidance counselor in the York County School system, she knows firsthand the struggles facing children and families.  “There is always a need for building strong family units, whatever that family unit looks like,” she said. From experience Reid knows that there are many multigenerational families where, for various reasons including incarcerated parents or the involvement of the Department of Children and Family Services, grandparents are raising their grandchildren.  There are also many single parent families or children being raised by other relatives. 

“I felt this project would be a good missional extension of our church and provide some resources for those types of families,” said Reid, “It’s been a good outreach for us to do something like this where you don’t have to be a part of the church and families in community and from local schools can attend.”

The Family Matters Project, using the Transforming Families statement of the 216th General Assembly (2004) as one reference point, revolved around three primary workshops which were held on Saturday mornings.  The first workshop held last August was a kick-off for the new school year.  “We had a middle school administrator come and talk to us about how important parental involvement is in the schools,” said Reid. 

The second workshop with the theme, “Who is raising your children,” was specifically for guardians and was led by a minister from the presbytery who is also an educator. 

“We focused on how different types of media are distracting children and how parents can replace that with family bonding time,” said Reid. “This turned out to be the most powerful workshop. You figure out based on your own family design how many times a week you make time to put everything down, pray, and do a short Bible study.”

The third workshop was held in April and focused on teaching guardians how to prepare their children for the end of course tests and how to deal with the stress that comes with that.  “Our minister’s wife who is an educator, did that one for us,” said Reid. 

At each workshop, participants were given certain resources.  “We have family packs with Bibles and different kind of biblical stories because one of our emphases is on family literacy,” said Reid.

Because each successive workshop grew in attendance, it is Reid’s hope that the church will continue to support this project in the future.  Reid also thinks that this is a program that could be replicated by other churches with certain changes for the particularities of that community.

“Had the information not been so readily available for me on the website, I could have just totally overlooked it or not known about it.”  Reid said. “I think that people are driven to search out different avenues to support the ministries that God has put upon their hearts and through the generous gifts of people it has reach many lives.  Who knows how many families beyond our church were touch by some of the materials we were able to share.”

According to Reid this is just how God works, “We are here to serve Him and His works extend so far beyond just where we are in our church and in our sanctuary.” 

During McClintock’s Graduation Sunday the church presented Reid with a plaque for her work in the Family Matters Project.  “I was so graciously surprised I thought ‘Oh no, this was everybody’s effort,’” she said. “God is leading this and you just do the work.”

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The Presbyterian Mariners Family Ministry Grant is awarded on a funds available basis to eligible applicants through Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations, church organizations or presbyteries. Projects eligible for consideration will create or redesign opportunities for family ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Successful projects will propose ways to encourage, nurture and strengthen family ministry and provide measurable goals for evaluation. To download an application, visit the website.

Drew Stockstill is a freelance writer in Decatur, Ga., where he is currently a student at Columbia Theological Seminary.