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Mustard Seed Family Mentors

Mustard Seed Family Mentors is a pilot to support religious congregations committed to reducing child abuse and neglect.

The Family Mentors certification is a training process for existing staff and volunteers at local congregations who are already doing the work of supporting families. Our series of six interactive training sessions will introduce five key strategies to strengthen families and reduce violence.

Selected participants from each congregation will also complete practice activities to refine and certify their skills in each strategy. These individuals will become certified Mustard Seed Family Mentors, ready to use this approach to transform your community.


This is not a new video series, textbook, outreach program, or scripture study. You will continue your current work with better results.

The Mustard Seed Family Mentors process is an approach to serving families that helps them bond more deeply, avoid crisis, or bounce back faster. Over 10,000 research studies support that this approach will reduce violence and increase wellbeing for the whole family.

It can work for your congregation, too.

Summary of Pilot for Partners

Purpose: Experience home as a center of God’s love.

Strategy: Mustard Seed Training is convening a team to equip staff and volunteers at local religious congregations to become Mustard Seed Family Mentors. Family Mentors model and implement the five protective factors to strengthen families from cradle to career.

Research Question: Will local congregations increase family recruitment and retention by using research-based approaches to family support?

Core Values: accessibility, emotional safety, connecting local networks


  • Train and certify staff and volunteers of local religious congregations as Mustard Seed Family Mentors
  • Family Mentors will improve society promoting the 5 protective factors to strengthen families (italicized): 
    • coaching parents to form deep bonds (resilience)
    • modeling clear communication
    • connecting families to educational resources (knowledge) and social services (support)
    • inviting parents to community participation (relationships)
  • Revise participating organization’s existing parental recruitment & education materials to use clear language, visuals, and concrete materials

What is in it for local religious congregations or schools?

  • Family Mentors will aid their hosting organization by maintaining relationships with families, updating contact information, and inviting or retaining families to be active members. They will accomplish this by modeling emotional safety and clear communication.
  • Family Mentor Organizations will become part of an ongoing community of practice with others committed to improving the lives of the “greatest in the Kingdom”: children!

Pilot program goals:

  • One nonprofit will serve as the fiscal agent to receive & disburse grant funds for the pilot. 
  • Partner with an academic researcher to use Community-Based Participatory Research to pilot, test, and refine implementation: 
  • Engage five local religious congregations and/or schools in Ashtabula County, Ohio to invest in loving homes by committing: 
    • Staff and/or volunteer time to participate in all training sessions,
    • Submit specific organizational materials for training purposes,
    • Maintain and submit anonymized data on family participation for analysis,
    • Identify two to five individuals within each organization committed to completing the Family Mentor certification process (more may participate in individual training sessions).
  • Consult with an adult education and/or family literacy expert reviewer to evaluate & refine the certification process for participating Family Mentors:
    • Review activities for participants to demonstrate introductory knowledge of the five protective factors to strengthen families (resilience, relationships, knowledge, support, communication) 
    • Contribute to development of rubrics to evaluate participant submissions 
    • Guide development of a portfolio of anonymized work samples drawn from pilot participant submissions
  • Contract with a Plain Language professional to contextualize introductory Plain Language training for religious congregations. Plain Language professional will also evaluate the rest of Mustard Seed Family Mentors training materials for clear communication.
  • (Like to have) Hire a photographer and videographer based in Northeast Ohio to capture and edit visuals at each of five local organizations for training purposes. They will also attend one or more of the training sessions to capture the experience for evaluation and replication purposes.
  • (Like to have) Collaborate with an established Christian theologian (with DMin, PhD or other terminal degree) to express the theological foundations for the Mustard Seed Family Mentors approach and process.

Mustard Seed Training has identified potential pilot funding and will submit Letters of Intent starting April 2021.