It is easy for Parents of Missionaries to feel isolated. Not only are they separated physically from their children, but they also can feel separated emotionally from those around them. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. One great source of fellowship for them is other Parents of Missionaries.
Cheryl Savageau and Diane Stortz, authors of Parents of Missionaries: How to Thrive and Stay Connected When Your Children and Grandchildren Serve Cross-Culturally, have produced a list of guidelines to help start a POM group. I’m reproducing it here, and the pair are happy for you to do the same. They just ask that you include the copyright line at the end.
Ten Steps to Starting a Local POM Group
1. Ask God to bless and guide your effort as you set out to build a local group. Talk personally to the POMs you know, even if it’s only a few, about your idea for a new group. Invite them to help you get a group going.
2. Set a specific direction for your group. It’s fine to talk about your missionaries, but the purpose of the group is to provide fellowship, support, and education for POMS themselves.
3. Find a professional Christian counselor who understands both family dynamics and the necessity of acknowledging grief as a key component of adjusting to new situations. If the counselor has any missions background or interest, so much the better. Ask the counselor to read Parents of Missionaries and volunteer to help you begin the group and moderate group meetings, especially in the beginning.
4. Introduce your idea to the local church and missions leaders you know to enlist their support and learn of other POMs in your area who might benefit from joining the group.
5. Contact other churches in your area. Mail or e-mail a letter that introduces your idea to church and missions leaders you don’t know and state that you will make follow-up contact in a week. Make follow-up phone calls to letter recipients, asking if they know of POMs who might benefit from joining the group. Ask for help in making contact with those parents.
6. Choose a date, place, and time for the first meeting six weeks in advance and arrange for a meal (either potluck or catered for an affordable fee per person).
7. Contact all the POMs on your list to introduce yourself and the group idea. Invite them to attend the first meeting and bring either a covered dish or the fee for the meal, depending on your plan.
8. Facilitate the meeting by providing name tags and cheerfully set tables. Plan short opening remarks and serve dinner. Allow approximately 45 minutes to an hour for dinner, dessert, and conversation.
9. After dinner, ask POMs to arrange their chairs in a circle without tables or other barriers in the middle. Let POMs introduce themselves and tell in just a few sentences about their missionary children and grandchildren.
10. Lead a discussion on a topic of interest to POMs. Use chapters in the book Parents of Missionaries as a guide. We especially suggest discussing these topics (one per meeting): dealing with grief, learning to use technology, coping with the holidays, staying connected with grandchildren, building strong relationships with young adult children.
© 2008, 2014 Cheryl Savageau and Diane Stortz