Can you imagine getting into the car, turning on the engine and driving off … without having any idea where you’re going?
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet, as I know from experience, it’s all too easy to launch into the start of another year of running a toddler group, use massive amounts of physical, mental and emotional energy in the process, yet have no clear idea exactly what your aims for the group are.
In the business world, there’s a well-known saying: ‘If you aim at nothing, you are almost always sure to hit it every time.’ It’s certainly not true to say that your group will achieve nothing unless you know what you’re aiming for. But there is a sense in which you’re unlikely to accomplish as much as you could have done, and you’ll probably not do the things that you’d actually like to achieve.
So, before we get into the driving seat and set off for another year of activity, let’s stop to make some important preparations:
Plan the journey
Another business maxim is: ‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail.’ When the group’s aims are clearly expressed, it should be easier to see how to get from A to B. So, for example, if you want to attract new families to your toddler group, your plans are likely to include how to publicise the group more widely. And if your group has had a high turnover of parents, you may want to investigate why and find a solution to this problem.
Long journeys may need to be divided into more manageable sections and, in the same way, the aims that you have for your group may need to be reached in stages. For example, the vision to see more families from your group start to attend church on Sunday may be achieved through a series of small steps rather than a giant leap – turning up to a church service on Sunday is very different from attending a midweek toddler group session.
Share the vision
You may have team members who are happy to be passengers in your car, willing to go where you take them. Others, however, may like to share the driving and be involved in the decision-making process. Either way, it’s important to share your vision for the group with them so that all of you know what the group is trying to achieve.
Share the load
Most toddler group leaders are ‘doers’ – they have to be! However, having a clear plan will allow you to delegate some tasks to others. So, to go back to our driving illustration, if anyone is willing to do some of the driving on this journey, encourage them to do so. Let them share the load – doing ‘story time’ each week, for example, or taking responsibility for the weekly craft activity or refreshments.
With a common understanding of where you’re going, you’ll be confident that you’re all heading in the right direction to reach your destination – and there’s no better place to be than seeing your become a reality.