Janna Holder has worked with the community in Seer Green for the past fifteen years as a Children and Families Minister, working with both Seer Green Baptist Church and Holy Trinity Church (CofE). Here she reflects on the mission field of her group ‘Little Blessings’.
Pre-pandemic we ran a highly popular and busy toddler group called ‘Toddlers’. Every Wednesday morning we regularly filled our building with up to 100 parents, carers and children. I loved the buzz of each session, but for some on team the numbers could be overwhelming.
Having been closed in person for over a year, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to reflect on what it was that we had been doing, what we wanted to take forward and what new opportunities we could embrace.
Firstly, we decided on a name change. While acknowledging that ‘Toddlers’ was probably a name that would still stay with those who had attended before the pandemic, this didn’t express what we wanted the group to be. It wasn’t simply a group for toddlers – we wanted it to be a group which welcomed all pre-schoolers, from 0-4, and their parents and carers. After prayer and consideration, I came across ‘Little Blessings’ and felt that was the right name for us, with the strapline ‘tinies, tots, tea and toys’. We see each and every person who comes through our doors as a ‘little blessing’, but we also want the activities, refreshments and the time spent in our building to be a ‘little blessing’ to them.
Expressing our ethos through our name change has given many opportunities to chat further with those attending about why we are doing what we do, in the way we do it.
As a church in a village, we were aware that our target group really was those who lived close by. So, when we reopened in September 2021, we set parameters on who could attend and allowed only those who lived in or looked after someone from the two villages in our parish, or who had a qualifying connection.
A toddler group had been running in our building for many years prior to my arrival and had always been a space for local parents. One of the many changes over the last few years has been the increase of parents who go back to work and therefore the children are often brought to our group by grandparents, nannies or childminders. Rather than resenting not having much contact with some parents, we recognised that welcoming these other local or connected adults is just as vital. Each one of them is precious to us and precious to God and our mission is to share God’s love with them.
While at first I thought the local rule might be restrictive, it has actually been quite freeing. We know who our mission field is, and with the ‘qualifying connection’ exception it has also enabled us to judge on a case-by-case basis who else can attend.
In November, I received a phone call from a mum in crisis. To this day I have no idea how she got my number, but I believe God sent her our way. She was desperate and needed a welcoming, safe space for her and her little one. We welcomed her to join us and have travelled a difficult year alongside her. Recently, I was chatting to a mum in our local park who lived in the neighbouring village. She was pregnant and was moving to be nearer her parents, so she had to stop going to other groups as they required her to book for a half term at a time, and she didn’t know when they would be moving. I felt prompted to invite her to join us at ‘Little Blessings’ for the three weeks before they moved. They did, and they loved it.
As we run our groups let’s trust that God leads those he wants to come through our doors and let’s be able to see the opportunities we have to interact with them. We may not know the impact we are having as we spend time with families, but I hope and pray that as we show God’s love to them, their experience in our groups will have a positive influence on their faith journey.
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