– Andrew Beebee, Children and Youth Minister at Malmesbury Abbey
In February 2015, my wife, Jude, and I joined the church family at Malmesbury Abbey, a beautiful 12th century former Benedictine monastery in North Wiltshire. I was taking on the role of Children and Youth Minister, and Jude was beginning work as a freelance artist. We felt warmly welcomed by the church and I set about working with the enthusiastic team of volunteers involved in the children and youth work.
There was no baby or toddler group in the church at the time, and as we thought and prayed about our next steps, starting one seemed like the right thing to do. However, before setting anything up, I contacted Helen Lock, the Playtime Coordinator for Care for the Family, to make sure that we were heading in the right direction.
Helen kindly visited us in July 2015 and helped us to think through what a new toddler group would need, including how to build up a team and make the best use of the space we had available. With her encouragement and support we planned the launch of Little Stars for the half-term of February 2016.
During this half-term each year, the Abbey runs a skate park which attracts many young people (another story altogether!). The skate park always runs on Wednesday to Friday, so we decided to hold a special Little Stars event on the Monday. Jude designed a logo, we handed out invitations, put up posters, visited other toddler groups, advertised in schools and ordered in a bouncy castle and ball pit!
We welcomed over 100 adults, toddlers and babies, which was a huge encouragement and left us feeling blessed. The bouncy castle proved extremely popular and has now become a regular feature! We have met three more times since then, with an average of 70 attending. It’s been a huge encouragement to the church which sees it as an opportunity to serve the carers, parents and grandparents of our community, many of whom are new to the Abbey.
It’s early days for Little Stars, but we feel very blessed to have started in such an encouraging way, and we believe that God has opened a door for our ministry. However, we know that taking advantage of this open door will need more than a good start and a bouncy castle. It will take much prayer, hard work, and the need for all of us in the children’s ministry to continue to serve together as a team.
Please pray for us as we navigate this exciting new adventure, and also be encouraged in your own ministry at the amazing opportunity that we all have through our toddler groups to reach out and support the ‘little stars’ in our communities.