Parenting Progress

by Barbara Nordlund

There is always the assumption in ministry that staff are underpaid and overworked. While this may be true to a degree, I have found that I am blessed each day in the work that I do and there is no way to quantify that. I am a life-long Covenanter, grew up at Winnetka Covenant Church, worked at Covenant Point Bible Camp, went to North Park University and met my husband, the son of a Covenant pastor, the first week of college.

During my formative years I began to question an identity I had so long associated myself with. What was the Covenant church? Did I agree with all of the corporate decisions being made? What was my role in the church? We moved to Minnesota and began the dreaded “church shopping.” We never did find our niche until we stopped looking and our church found us. Shortly after moving back to Chicago, I accepted a job working at Ravenswood Covenant Church as the office manager and the executive director of Parenting Progress, a ministry that promotes growth, responsibility, and education with spiritual support to teen parents. With a background in counseling, I knew this was the right job for me and Ravenswood Covenant quickly became our home.

Parenting Progress was founded in 2002 following a series of discussions with community leaders to respond to the needs of our community in Ravenswood. Many teens were getting pregnant and keeping their children, but were then faced with dropping out of high school because they did not have adequate child care. Ravenswood Covenant dedicated the Christian Education wing to open Ravenswood Community Child Care Center (RC4). RC4 provides NAEYC accredited child care to 45 children, ages 6 weeks through preschool. One-third of the child care has been dedicated to children of teen parents with subsidies from the government to cover their tuition. Two-thirds of the child care is filled with professionals in the community.

Parenting Progress is a ministry of Ravenswood Covenant that walks alongside teen parents in all facets of their lives and the lives of their children. There is no red tape to get through and no funding entities to have to answer to. It is an organic ministry that authentically provides unconditional support to teen parents who are navigating through their own personal identity in a time where, biologically, they are conditioned to be self-seeking and, in reality are also faced with one of the most sacrificing roles in life: parenting.

Because our ministry is designed to meet the needs of each individual teen, we have the privilege of helping our teens in a variety of ways. We write resumes and help with job searches. We meet with school counselors and teachers to provide support and encouragement as our teens work toward graduating from high school and moving on to post-secondary education. We give donations, connect teens with legal support, take our teens to doctor’s appointments and court dates, provide counsel through active listening, work with government organizations, provide resources when needed - the list goes on. We meet with teens for monthly life skills classes and connect our teens with mentors from the church and community.

There are many ways to measure the success of a program. In my years of serving as the director of Parenting Progress, I have found that success is found not in checking off a to-do list, but in the building of relationships and in the honor we have been given to become a part of the lives of our teens and their children. It is a gift to be able to respond to the Gospel each day by serving these teens in myriad ways.

Ravenswood Covenant Church continues to respond to the needs of our community as our response to the Gospel, to love one another as Christ loves us.

If you would like to learn more about Parenting Progress or would like to donate to our ministry through monetary or material donations, please contact us at parentingprogress@gmail.com or visit our website at www.parentingprogress.vpweb.com.