Gillian Ives, from Gateway Christian Church in the Hampden Park area of Eastbourne, shares how her team managed big changes in their toddler group.
The Giggles Toddler Group was launched in January 2012, and for a while things were going well. But in September 2013 we came up against a challenge. The centre where we met was due to be demolished and, although another would be built in its place, we would need to find a new location for the group while the work was completed.
At the time, we were running two regular and one Baby Gigglers session each week, and desperately wanted to stay in the area so we could continue serving our local community. The leadership and church family began praying in earnest about an appropriate location, not only for our group but for the other activities that our congregation was involved with.
It took a while but, after a lot of hard work from our senior ministry team, we were informed that a church hall just around the corner was available and would become our temporary venue. It was such a relief, and a real turning point for the team – finally we had something to focus on and could begin our move.
Looking back, there were a number of things that helped to direct us in ensuring everything went as well as it could:
1) Plan how you are going to manage your group’s activities in a different set-up
The first thing we did was declutter our toys and craft equipment. We then invested in storage that would not only see us through our stay at the church hall, but be useful once we were back in our new building.
All our files are kept in a small, lockable cabinet, as the hall is used by other community groups. And every box is labelled to ensure a quick tidy up time – now that we are working to “hired hours”, we need to be aware of the clock.
Being in someone else’s venue, it is particularly important that we are aware of the impact of activities like messy craft, and we always ensure that we leave the hall exactly as we would like to find it ourselves.
When it came to room layout, we tried several options before finding the right one, and we also realised we would need plenty of signage for parents, as they have to enter through two sets of doors before reaching the group.
2) Keep communication strong between you, your team, and the families you serve
Although we didn’t need to be out until June, we decided that to give our families time to adjust to to the changes by starting sessions in the church hall after the Easter holidays. This enabled families to familiarise themselves with the new set-up in preparation for the new term in September.
Most of the families coped really well with the change, although some were sad to say goodbye to their old venue. The most frequently asked questions were about accessibility, the size of the hall, and the toilet facilities! All of these are important of course, and we were careful to reassure parents and carers where we could and, if we didn’t have the answer to a particular question, we spoke to someone who did.
Finally, we wrote to all our families, informing them of the change and inviting them to look at a model of the planned new church and community centre so they could begin to envisage what it will look like.
3) Keep praying, and remember it’s only temporary
Prayer has been vital within the team, and we have continually sought God’s wisdom as to how to handle the changes in the right way. If you are in a similar situation, keep focusing on the future, remember to talk to the families involved as work progresses, and let them own the vision alongside you. We have found that parents are now getting excited about this positive work that is happening in their community.
God has been good and continues to guide the Giggles ministry throughout this time of change.