Last month, seventeen men from around the country gathered at Care Net’s headquarters to explore new ways to reach and equip expectant fathers. Representing nine pregnancy centers and their partner churches, this group is on the forefront of a growing movement that serves men whose partners are considering abortion. Each pastor and pregnancy center leader came ready to “get messy” as we covered everything from infant care essentials to the need to partner on long-term discipleship.

The event was part of a project at Care Net called the Fatherhood Pilot Project. We recognize that fathers are valuable to God, highly influential in their partner’s pregnancy decision, and vital for the future well-being of their child and we are thrilled to see more and more pregnancy centers in our network welcoming men as staff and as clients. The Fatherhood Pilot Project offers fatherhood-specific funding, training, and resources to 10 centers, helping them grow their efforts while also learning alongside them. We were blessed to receive applications from 97 centers for this first-of-its-kind opportunity.

One key element of the pilot project involves training the participants to lead the DoctorDad workshops. These hands-on workshops are effective in engaging men early in their fatherhood journey, and providing them with life saving tools. After kicking off our year-long project this fall with a Zoom orientation, we were excited to gather in one location and dig into some material together. Those who flew in the day before the training event grabbed dinner together, and that evening of fellowship might have been worth the whole trip!

On training day, we started with an icebreaker from the first DoctorDad workshop that involves making something out of pipe-cleaners to represent our own fathers. That’s right; we got 17 grown men to do a craft and share from the heart, and one of the guys even felt moved to pray and thank God for the tenderness of fellowship and His tender love for us as His sons.

Next, we dug into the DoctorDad workshops, practicing infant care skills to be able to pass them on to young fathers in the center. We discussed the importance of giving men a way to invest in fatherhood during pregnancy, helping them gain confidence for first steps like swaddling and nutrition rather than loading them down with all a father’s journey might entail. We passed around a model baby as we covered techniques for calming a crying baby. We practiced using digital thermometers and had some good laughs as we tried out bulb syringes (green jello standing in for baby boogers).

This kind of practical work is important when serving men in the pregnancy center. In Care Net’s 2021 survey of men whose partner had an abortion, many indicated that they had recommended abortion because they didn’t feel ready to be a dad. But we didn’t stop at the practical skills. We also know that for families to truly thrive, the local church is essential. So we brainstormed ways that pregnancy centers and churches can work together to make this work for fathers more transformational.

This event was also marked as a pre-release showcase for the new version-2.0-of Care Net’s Making Life Disciples (MLD) training, which is now in an ideal form for church small groups and Sunday school classes. MLD seeks to equip churches with a Christ-like response to abortion, helping them know how to care for those in their congregation facing unplanned pregnancies, and also how to go beyond financial support of their local pregnancy centers to a true ministry partnership. With several pastors at the event, we were able to discuss what it would look like for volunteers from local churches to help lead workshops like DoctorDad in the center, or to host them right at their church!

In the same Care Net survey of men, we saw that though half of men were attending church regularly at the time of their partner’s abortion, only 5% spoke with anyone in their church about the decision. Similarly, half were aware of a local pregnancy center, but only 5% spoke with anyone at a pregnancy center. If men in our churches and our communities are feeling under-equipped to take on fatherhood, it’s clear they are not seeking out help on their own. How powerful would it be for churches and pregnancy centers to work together to make sure every young man who finds himself considering abortion knows that there is help for him! We got a powerful glimpse of this vision at the event.

Those who attended shared how meaningful it was to be together with other men who are doing this work. Greg, who serves as Men’s Ministry Coordinator at a center in Florida, shared, “It is encouraging to know that I am not alone, and that there are individuals who are willing to help.” Demetri, who serves as Fatherhood Director at a center in Alabama, said, “Being surrounded by brothers in Christ, in one accord, was absolutely powerful.”

Please pray for the leaders who attended this event, and for all the fathers they will reach in the coming months and years. And if God is laying this work on your heart, please don’t hesitate to reach out so we can help you. Finally, if you know a man who is ready to learn more about how he can make a difference in this area, invite them to Called & Missioned: The Pro-Life Men’s Conference.