mother and daughter

This is the final article in the series on “making connections”, where we have been looking at the ways in which church-based playgroups are a ministry opportunity for the local church. In previous newsletters, we have talked about connections with the local community; connections with the church, and connections with playgroup families.

Provide regular opportunities for the Christians in the playgroup to develop their own faith, as individuals and as families.

The most important connection that enables playgroup to be authentic ministry is “connection with Jesus”. We can run the most enjoyable, friendly, fantastic playgroup that people love coming to. However, we should not ignore their deepest human need, to encounter the grace and mercy of God. Just inviting playgroup families into our church buildings and being friendly is not enough. We need to be purposeful in using the relationships formed at playgroup to connect the playgroup members with Jesus.

Provide regular opportunities for the Christians in the playgroup to develop their own faith, as individuals and as families. It is important for the leaders and for the Christian mums (or dads, grandparents or other carers) to realise that the quality of their own relationship with God is the foundation for sharing their faith with the non-Christian families at playgroup.

A most powerful and effective way of connecting playgroup families to Jesus is prayer.

The playgroup program may have structured Christian content, but this will depend on what is appropriate for your playgroup. What is right for one group will not work for another group. If using curriculum materials to provide activities for the children (games, craft, stories, songs) take care to make them age-appropriate. Tiddlywinks (published by Scripture Union) is an excellent resource for use with young children (0-5 years).

A most powerful and effective way of connecting playgroup families to Jesus is prayer. The playgroup team should regularly pray together for the playgroup families. Ask members of the parish to pray and provide points for prayer (without breaking confidentiality). Pray for the families attending playgroup. Pray for the playgroup team and pray for opportunities to share the good news of God’s love for each person in ways that will help them come into relationship with Jesus.

Remember that the playgroup ministry is a ministry of the whole church. Use the resources of the wider ministry of the church to provide playgroup members with opportunities to explore the Christian faith and to meet their pastoral needs.

Build a playgroup culture where prayer is a normal and natural part of the playgroup experience. Develop the habit of bringing prayer into the conversations. When a difficulty or problem is discussed (ranging from sleepless nights to life-threatening illness) offer to pray. Teach the playgroup team how to offer 10 second prayers (literally pray with a person for no more than ten seconds). If it is appropriate for the group, have a short prayer committing each other to the care of God at the end of the playgroup session. Provide opportunities for playgroup members to ask for prayer. You could have a box to post written requests or a list where people can add their names. Display posters of prayers that may be relevant to the group on the walls: the Grace you use at morning tea, the Lord's Prayer, prayers of blessing or benediction.

Remember that the playgroup ministry is a ministry of the whole church. Use the resources of the wider ministry of the church to provide playgroup members with opportunities to explore the Christian faith and to meet their pastoral needs.

Above all, make it your aim to connect playgroup families to Jesus, and let that purpose shape everything you do. We can be confident that the Holy Spirit will be a step ahead; God will already be at work, calling the families in our playgroups into his kingdom, so that all we have to do is be the body of Christ, showing his love through our words and actions, and speaking his message of acceptance and forgiveness for all.

Children & Families & Playgroup Newsletter, Term 3 2009