THE CHURCH & teenage parents

How every local church can care for and support children having children.

Sikunye believes local churches are well positioned to provide a necessary and unique care and support role for teenagers who are parents. In fact, the local church is the best place for young parents to receive care and support in this time of their life.

Prevention work is essential: the rate of teen pregnancy must come down. The reality is, however, in a sinful and broken world, teenage pregnancies will still happen. Even if the teenage pregnancy rates drops by half, we will still have 1 in 6 teenage girls falling pregnant.

We know this is a complex issue. For the church leader, many times the issue is more around it being unwed pregnancy, with theological and pastoral considerations. There may be pressure to punish the teen girl to send a message to others. Every teen pregnancy story is unique. In some cases, there may have been a crime involved. Various family, cultural, community and church practices will influence church leaders and congregants. This is not simple or easy.

For the teenager who is pregnant, or has a child under two, they are in this crucial period of the first thousand days. If the baby receives enough of the right kind of care and support in this time, he or she is far more likely to grow up healthy and succeed in life.  But the teen parent is a child, too. They need care, support and love so that they can provide what baby needs. But teen moms face additional risks and barriers. This places both her and the young child at risk. The question is: what can the local church do to provide the support and care that the teen parent needs?

Our hope is that even though it is complex, these resources will give you information and guidance to care for teenagers who have children. For the sake of the baby, for the sake of the mom and dad, this is something to address.

Steps you can take

  See the teen as a child: Being a good parent is a big responsibility at whatever age. Teenage parents face additional challenges that negatively impact on their capacity to consistently provide what their child needs. They may experience rejection from family, community, health facilities and their church. Pregnancy makes this teenager a vulnerable child, someone with a childhood interrupted.

  Understand the teen’s unique story: every teen pregnancy story is different. By talking to the teenager, you can better understand the various factors at play in the teen’s life. You may discover that she did not choose to fall pregnant. Explore what strengths she has, what support she needs and the relationship between her and the father.

  Meet with the family: just as every teen pregnancy story is unique, every family has its own story. The news of a child being pregnant often threatens the supportive relationships within the family. Churches can play an important mediation and counselling role within families to process the news and find the healthiest next steps for mom, baby and the father.

  Explore what support is available from service providers: the local church is not the sole provider of support for  teen parents. It takes a village to raise a child. Who else can be included in that village? There will be NGOs, government facilities and other service providers in your community that can support this young mom and dad. As a local church, you can open up doors for the family to access more of the care they need for their wellbeing – and the wellbeing of the baby.

  Build ongoing and supportive relationships: teenage parenting does not start at birth. Explore how older, wiser men and women can journey with the teen mom, and dad. This will ensure they feel supported and have someone who will visit, connect with and invest in them.

Understand the issues of children having children

The teenage mother is already a high-risk pregnancy. In addition to this, many different risk factors and barriers are at play, making it even more difficult for the teenager to consistently provide what their young child need. Many times, the teenager becomes isolated, rejected and disconnected from their communities of care and support.

Use the strengths of your church

The local church has incredible influence: a voice into households in their community. They have reach; and they have strengths and assets that can be used to care for and support teen parents and their children. Every church is unique – so what is the role and opportunity for your church?

Provide a range of support to the teenagers

There are many factors at play in the teen parent’s life. Every teen pregnancy story is unique, but there are some general principles and guidelines to explore when considering how to care for teenage parents.

Got questions?  Click on the questions below for resources and ideas. Please do email us if you have more questions that are not answered here.

Pastor Ziba Mbense engages with the question: Should we punish the girl to send a message to others teens: Video.

Dr Jeremy Wyngaard explores how to care for teen parents without promoting sin: Video and Presentation.

Cleopas Maseko visits this topic when talking to how to engage families of teen parents: Video.

Pastor Ziba Mbense engages with the question: Should we punish the girl to send a message to others teens: Video.

Dr Viola Fransman visits some of the biblical texts that guide church discipline: Video.

Dr Mehreen Hunter asks us to reflect on the impact of our actions on teenagers: Video.

Outreach Magazine talks to why churches without broken people are broken: Article.

Victoria Sikhakhane talks to what we all want for teenagers – care not punishment: Video.

The church has got a role in providing a loving, caring environment. The pregnant teenager feels rejected by the system, feels rejected by society and now if the church does not provide a safe space for them or come alongside them for counselling – there is a big danger that we are pushing, this already vulnerable teenager, to get help and comfort from the wrong places.

Victoria Sikhakhane explores what we all want for our teenagers: Belonging, creativity, significance, security and a sense of family: Video.

Pastor Ziba Mbense talks to how to get the broader congregation on board with caring for teens: Video.

Dr Viola Fransman shares how churches can reach teens outside the church community: Video.

Pastor Ziba Mbense encourages pastors to give teenagers a second chance: Video.

Focus on the family covers important issues on unplanned pregnancies: Article.

Outreach magazine points out: churches without broken people are broken churches: Article.

The current statistics of teen pregnancies in South Africa. Nicolette Henney unpacks the numbers: Video and Slides.

Department of Health National: Website

Gauteng; Limpopo; Northern CapeNorth-WestFree State; Eastern Cape; Western CapeMpumalanga; KwaZulu-Natal

Child Count Statistics: Website

Cleopas Maseko from Thembalethu Nkomazi explores how churches can engage with the broader family of the teen parent. Video

Focus on the Family writes on how to respond to a teen pregnancy in your family: Website.

Watch the story of Anneline Fortuin, a church leader whose teen daughter fell pregnant: Video.

Julia Starck from the Parent Centre unpacks the support that teen fathers need. Video and Slides

Focus on the family shares helpful content on teen dads Article and Article.

There is a widespread view that teen girls are falling pregnant on purpose in order to access the Child Support Grant – currently valued at R480 per month.

Dr Mehreen Hunter shares research on this topic: Video.

This myth is not unique to South Africa: Article.

Is the Child Support Grant associated with an increase in teenage fertility in South Africa?  Research findings.

Yes prevention is important. However the hard reality is that despite prevention work there are still teenagers who are falling pregnant, teenagers who are parents. What do they need in order to do well? What do they need for their young child to do well? You can have a prevention message AND care for teenagers who are parents. It isn’t an either or – we believe it is a both and – that local churches are positioned and equipped to play a good positive role in teenagers lives, whether they fall pregnant or not. Let’s focus on the care of those teenagers who have fallen pregnant and who are parents themselves.

Here are some things you can do to increase the impact of your efforts to prevent teen pregnancy whilst you care for teens who are already parents:

  • Speak to your regional Department of Social Development
  • Find out what forums are happening in your area on teen pregnancy prevention and join them
  • Collaborate and partner with other organisations in your area

The Policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy in schools: Policy.

This page will be regularly updated as new resources are loaded.

Your church can be what we call “First Thousand Day-friendly” – a community of people creating a loving and supportive community around families with young children. Explore our Events page and our Resources page to discover additional training and resources.

How to engage with teen parents, and how to integrate the care into the whole life of the church: Sikunye Resource.

How to care for families during pregnancy: Sikunye Resource.

How to care for families during birth to 3 months: Sikunye Resource.

How to care for families during the first year of life: Sikunye Resource.

How to care for families during the second year of life: Sikunye Resource.

Mental health during pregnancy and post-birth: Sikunye Resource.

Dr Rene Nassen explores the particular issues and risks for a teen mom and her baby: Video.

With 1 in 3 teen moms not returning to school, creating a community of support around mom is necessary to see her finish her education to better provide for herself and family. Noluthando Yawa shares how churches can be part of this. Video.

Dr Estelle Lawrence shares on how to create layers of support around teens and their children: Video.

Facts for life – free online resource for parenting tips: Website.

What to do when a teen girl is pregnant, by Focus on the Family: Website.

Sikunye’s hope is that churches take active steps in their context to see teen parents supported,
cared for and seeing their young child thrive. Together, we can see a new generation of children
growing up with more of the care that they need to reach their potential.