Just imagine if your church discovered a way to effectively engage with over 50% of your community. Just imagine if 50% of your community attended your church every week.
You’d notice – wouldn’t you?
In the vast majority of churches in the UK they already do!
Recent research has found that 52% of Parents with Toddlers in the United Kingdom attend a Church led Parent and Toddler Group.
It took me some years to realise that every week in my church some 50-60 unchurched parents with toddlers not only gathered but were happy to be there and not only willing but eager to do Bible Crafts, hear Bible stories, sing Christian songs and even say prayers!
“I saw it as just a few mums gathered together to natter about kid’s stuff”
Of course I knew that the Parent and Toddler Group existed. In fact I was glad it was there but also very glad I never had to attend! For me it was a scary place. It had that potent cocktail that as a male church leader I tended to avoid – young women and small children.
To my shame, I saw it as unimportant, even trivial. I saw it as just a few mums gathered together to natter about kid’s stuff. Somehow I had segregated the group from the rest of the life and mission of the church.
That was until I visited as part of a church mission audit. I popped in to ask how many of those present attended church.
I sort of knew that 80% of them didn’t. I also assumed that most of them weren’t really interested.
When I asked the question every single parent put their hand up.
I was shocked! In my confusion I asked which church.
They looked at me as if I was mad and said in unison – this one.
Suddenly and unexpectedly I was forced to change my view of the group. Not only were they not-yet-believers but they saw themselves as part of the church I led.
A central plank in his mission…
I began to realise that the Parent and Toddler Group was not some fringe group but in the economy of God a central plank in his mission to our community. More people from the community attended this group every week than any other in the life of the church.
We began to ask ourselves key questions:
- What is the Parent and Toddler Group for?
- How can we deepen the relationships and draw those who attend further into the life of the church?
- How can we show greater love and support?
- How can we get to know the rest of their friends and families?
Without a doubt the most important question we asked as a church was how can we support, value, encourage and resource the Parent and Toddler Group Leaders to be more effective in their ministry?
The answers we came up with not only changed the churches attitude to the group and its leaders, but also the whole churches strategy for mission.
Practical tips to help you make a difference
It was this final question that made me want to do what I can, not just for the group in my church, but for all the other groups in the UK.
As we worked on making our group more effective for mission I learnt lessons that I have had the privilege of sharing with hundreds of Toddler Group Leaders through The Entheos Trust’s Toddler Rocks; Toddler Grooves and Toddler Talks Events.
These events aim to bring together all who have a heart to see Parent and Toddler Groups make a difference in their community and across our country. They are full of practical tips and ideas to help those: thinking about starting a group; wanting to make a good group great and looking to be more strategic in mission.
Rev. Richard Hardy
Director of the Entheos Trust.