‘Living Life to the Full’ was the theme of this year’s National Month of Prayer for toddler groups, and prayer was ignited up and down the country. The vital role of toddler groups in bringing grass-roots support to all families was highlighted in church services, newsletters and, of course, in the groups themselves.
The National Month of Prayer is an initiative of 1277, a national network for toddler groups with a Christian ethos. It started as a day of prayer, and this is the second year when a whole month has been devoted to it. Prayer is a vital part of these groups, and this month has been proving to bring many benefits.
At St Mark’s Church in Kensal Rise, one group took over the whole service w ith the toddler group team leading prayers, preaching and even doing a puppet show.
A request came in for prayer from a toddler group leader:
Please pray for the contacts and conversations we have each week. Two of our mothers have been ‘thrown out’ by their husbands recently. One is in a women’s refuge, and the other was sent back to India; I am in touch with both by email.
This was a reminder that toddler groups are often right there in the middle of life’s challenges.
Another story came in from Havering, NE London:
We commenced a group about two years ago with the aim of building a community, resilience in the parents and carers, and a place where talking about faith was as natural as talking about sleep deprivation. Last week, one of the families was bereaved of their 10-week-old baby girl. I went to the group yesterday knowing it would be an emotional morning, only to discover that the bereaved family was planning to come with their little boy – to carry on as normal for Robert.
What I saw when the family arrived was all the aims we had worked to encourage IN ACTION. It was amazing.
The generosity of the family with their own grief made our little group a safe place for everyone to have a cry, face up to their worst fear in many ways, and share their own stories of loss and sadness, while still giving their own children a good morning of play, craft, singing and bubbles.
Sadly, the group was going to have to close in July, but I am delighted to say that after some investigations by one of the mum’s, the group will be hiring a new venue and they’ll be running it themselves. My prayer for this group is that God will continue to reveal himself in the love that the parents, grandparents and carers have for these children, and that those parents who have a faith in Him will continue to witness to it through the way they cope with all that life throws at them.
The overarching highlight of this year was the prayer networks springing up around the country. 1277 have produced a leaflet called ‘Joining the Dots’, and people are catching this vision. In Stevenage, groups in the Methodist Circuit set up a travelling prayer workshop, and various prayer stations were set up. These stations included making people out of playdough to represent friends at our toddler groups, a prayer tent containing photographs of families who come to our groups, and maps of the various groups – each ‘station’ designed to encourage people to pray in creative ways. Last year four people came, but this year we had 17!
Prayers sent in from groups around the town.
The second London Prayer Marathon took place, and each day one of the 32 London boroughs was prayed for. Prayer networks met in six of the boroughs and again, prayer stations were used.
Praying for the toddler group team of volunteers.
Praying for relationships between the church and the community.
On the last day of the prayer marathon, a prayer walk took place from Westminster to City Hall, with prayer bubbles being blown along the way.
Celebrating the wonderful work of our toddler groups is such a great thing to do, and yet we will probably never fully know the extent to which the lives are touched by an encounter in our toddler groups.