We were in a coffee shop, one two-year old daughter was asleep in the buggy and the other sat in her high-chair, when we heard from our amazing toddler group leader that she felt it was time for her to stop leading the group. She had started the Allsorts group when her eldest was a toddler and over fifteen years it had grown it to be one of the most popular groups in the area and was even voted a Netmums favourite. But she had other callings and priorities and was stepping down from leadership – and she asking us to consider stepping up!
We were mums for whom the Allsorts Baby and Toddler Group had been a lifeline, and also members of Bromley Town Church who ran the group. We had been helping out for some time, however, leading was a different thing altogether. We both had small children in the group who needed us and older children with their own schedules and commitments. Could we really take on the responsibility and continue to provide our mums, carers and their children with a great service every week?
We decided that while neither of us felt we could do the job on our own, together – and with God’s help – we would give it our best. We have just finished our first year leading the group together. It has been hard work but so rewarding! Here are some of the lessons we learnt in our first year of leadership:
Have a shared vision
We began by sitting down together to work through the Scripture Union’s resource Building Blocks which helped us appreciate our foundations, recognise our strengths and vocalise our dreams for the future. We are now able to be intentional in every decision, knowing that it builds the group we believe we are supposed to be.
Get a great team
We could not run our group without our gang of volunteers. While we need their manpower – the lifting, carrying, smiling, coffee-making, chatting, understanding, tidying – we also make time to hear their ideas, prayers and passions. We are so thankful for all of them.
Learn from others
We attended the Playtime conference together in 2013 and met up with other local leaders. The opportunity to share and pray together was wonderful and we hope to repeat this locally. We also came away with a list of ideas. Not every group is supposed to be the same, but learning from the experience of other groups can be a real blessing to both the leaders and the families that we serve.
Try new things
In taking over an already successful group it would have been easy to keep everything the same except the name of the leader, but we did decide to make changes. We now plan our terms ahead to include occasional theme mornings or special events and rotate our toys fortnightly to give our children a variety of play opportunities. We have applied for money, invested in new and well-loved, older toys and we have introduced suggestion and prayer boxes. We used a lot of ideas from Playtime – storytelling in special toddler services, baby blessings and pampering our mums on Mother’s Day. Though a few decisions haven’t gone down well, the major have been very popular. Making the group our own was important and it was doing what we had been asked to do – stepping up and leading.
As mums with a passion for seeing families with young children experiencing the joy of being together, we would encourage other mums in groups with a leadership void to get together, pray together and then go for it – take the reins with both hands!