Lynda Spencer runs Tiny Church Parent and Toddler Group at Lumley Evangelical Church in Great Lumley, Co Durham. She shares with us what happens in a typical session and how grandparents are very much a part of it.
The hall is set out with toys and exciting activities, and our Tiny Church team finish a quick lunch together before we prepare for the busy session ahead. Praying for the children, parents, grandparents and carers we have grown to love, is how we begin each Wednesday afternoon during term time.
By one o’clock we are ready and waiting, with one team member standing at the outer door to welcome everyone personally. There’s always an early arrival – perhaps someone wanting a chat before the session, or simply a small person who is desperate to get here! This week is no exception, and we are delighted to see two-year-old Jessica with her gran, back from holiday and eager to share her news. Four-year-old twins, Charlie and Tess, bound up the steps ahead of their grandma to see what there is to do today, while Nana Pam comes puffing up the ramp with eleven-month-old Taylor smiling and waving from his buggy. Around the corner skips three-year-old Callum holding his gran’s hand, while Mum, Andrea, pushes new baby Isaac in his cosy pram.
Yes, we have a lot of grandmas at ‘Tiny Church’ – and the occasional grandpa too! (Around 50% of the adults who attend are grandparents.) “Where would today’s generation of busy young parents be without them?” I ask myself, as I look around the rapidly filling hall. As if on cue, someone’s gran calmly settles an argument over a wooden engine and another one gently wipes a small runny nose.
Everyone in the team is soon engaged, chatting with children as they pummel dough with fat fists or helping them create masterpieces from paper plates, pegs or pipe-cleaners. One or two of us keep a watchful eye on the children who are occupied in the home corner, playing with the garage and road mats, or building with wooden blocks and cardboard boxes. We also make sure that there is always someone on the team to simply sit and chat to the adults – a major part of our ministry.
Time passes quickly and ‘Tidy-up Time’ is announced. It’s all hands on deck – even the tiny ones ‘helping’ – and we are soon ready for ‘Circle Time’. Here our grandparents are on familiar ground, sharing in all the much-loved nursery rhymes and action songs that children have enjoyed for generations. ‘Bible Story Time’ is next with pictures or puppets, actions and more happy singing, grandparents joining in as enthusiastically as their grandchildren!
Everyone is ready for a healthy snack of fruit, breadsticks and milk, before a final short playtime when the children can crawl through tents and tunnels or play on rocking toys and hobby horses. All too soon it is time to go home. Tired children leave clutching the treasures they have made together with a copy of ‘Smalltalk’ to take home for their mums to read. And who stays to help with the final clear-up? Yes, you’ve guessed – it’s a couple of those hearts-of-gold grandparents!