Rebecca Pepper attended the Playtime conference for the first time this year.

She shares her experience and what inspired her.

Hi everyone – my name is Becky and I’m hoping to begin running a carer and baby/toddler group in the near future with my local church. This year, I had the pleasure of attending Care for the Family’s Playtime conference for the first time. While of course it was a shame to be online rather than in person, I was still so impressed by how much effort and Care for the Family had evidently put into hosting the day and I took so much from the experience.

As an excited and eager prospective group leader, I attended the conference hoping for lots of ‘top tips’ and guidance on how to run a really outstanding session for families and their children. I also hoped to meet others who shared my passion for supporting families, and to be inspired by their success stories, especially in the face of COVID-19 and the challenges it has brought to toddler groups in recent years.

And while, of course, these initial hopes were achieved, I also learned something far more pivotal … the importance of founding your group on a deeper why? Why do I want to run a carer and baby/toddler group? What does it mean to me and why would I give my time to something like this? What values and hopes will drive me to continue showing up and giving my best each week, even when challenges arise or life gets busy and draining in other areas? Listening to the conference leaders and presenters speak, it became increasingly clear that why you run your group is far more important than how you run your group; that holding this vision and purpose clearly in your mind and the minds of those you serve alongside is the real key to fruitful success in this ministry.

And if you happened to be stuck for a ‘why’ yourself, the conference also provided an abundance of ideas in this respect too! Hearing the various speakers share their passion and reasons for giving their time and energy to this ministry was truly inspiring. These included recognition that carer and baby/toddler groups often represent the ‘messy edge’, where churches interface with their local community and have an opportunity to share and show God’s love to the unchurched. We were encouraged to embrace our church-based identity and move beyond being just good-willed to being God-willed. Something that will especially stick with me going forward. Many also acknowledged how such groups can act as the proverbial ‘village’ for those journeying through the often demanding and sometimes lonely and isolating season of pre-school parenting. To hear families’ spiritual and mental wellbeing being thought of and cared for so wholeheartedly was incredibly touching and further strengthened my resolve to make my dream of running my own group a reality.

Finally, the overall theme and ethos of the conference couldn’t help but inspire: Be the catalyst for change in the lives of families with young children – be the one that sparks a reaction in not just this generation, but the next as well!

How do we do this exactly?

By trusting that our own experiences and vulnerability + God’s strength and power = a game changing impact that brings His Kingdom to those in need.

Powerful, humbling, inspirational!

Armed with such knowledge, motivation and encouragement, before I even recruit my first volunteer or plan my first session, I know I will be a more effective and impactful group leader because I attended the Playtime conference. Thanks to all involved – I can’t wait to come back (hopefully in person) next year!

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