The greatest encouragement I’ve experienced at the
Toddler Leader Training Events that we run has been the fact that more and more toddler group leaders are seeing their work as a calling and a ministry, not just a group and a session. Their thinking is shifting from running a group to reaching out and helping parents and young children.
Far too often the toddler group has been seen either as
a space where mums can meet or an opportunity to preach at parents. Now don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying that we shouldn’t create space and communicate the gospel – I just think your ministry could be so much more.
When I think about what you do, all I can see is your group’s potential.
If we are to realise that potential, then we need to look small and look large.
We need to examine what we already do and ask how can we do it better. To achieve this, we can break our sessions down into their individual parts and seek to develop each one.
For example, the two most important parts of a group are the welcome and the integration.
We need to ask ourselves – is our welcome the best that it can be? How might we improve it?
Do we position our most welcoming people outside the room to meet attendees as they arrive? Are we communicating love in everything we do? Do we welcome them by name? Is our registration process excellent? Do we have a welcome pack that contains all the information they need and something to read whilst they settle into their first session? Have we created a regular newsletter full of tips, news and items that may draw them further into the life of the group and the church?
Then there is integration.
What are we doing to ensure that people feel part of the group? Do we help them form lasting friendships? Do we see them as guests and ourselves as the hosts of the party?
It is often said about church that if people don’t make at least three significant friendships in their first weeks they won’t stay. If that is true of church how much more is it the case with toddlers and how much easier is it to achieve?
These are just two areas but what about every other segment in your session. Are they working well? Do they fit with your vision and your goals? Do you have a vision and goals?
This is the area that excites me the most. This is where calling comes in.
What if you are called not to run a group, but to ‘go large’ and reach every parent with an early years child in your community? What if your ministry is to parents and toddlers not to a group? What if your group is part of a bigger picture – a greater mission? What would that look like? How would you go about it?
Here’s a key question – where do parents with toddlers naturally gather? How could you meet them there?
If I remember right, the place that all parents go with their babies for the first year or so is the health clinic. Could you start there? Could you invite the health visitor to visit your group? Could you build a strong relationship with the clinic? Could you create goodie bags for new babies? Or pamper bags for every new mum that comes through the clinic? What would you offer the parents if you did? How would you start the engagement?
If we are to realise our potential and make the most of our opportunities, then we need to start where the parents gather and engage with them there. Is this the way we could potentially reach every parent in our community? What ideas do you have for doing so?
Richard Hardy is Director of the Entheos Trust which among other things runs Toddler Leader Training Days across the UK and creates resources like the Big Ted stories which communicate kingdom values to early years children and their parents. For more information go to www.theentheostrust.org