mother playing with baby

 

An important aspect of playgroup ministry is the intentional and genuine formation of relationships within the playgroup. We all respond to the people who show real interest in us. We all enjoy being around people who care enough about us to learn our names, ask after our families, and are willing to listen when they ask, “How are you?” Playgroup is such a natural opportunity to form lasting friendships, not just between mums, but also across generations. If your parish has people with time to spare and the ability to be a friend, then there is a place for them in the playgroup ministry.

The playgroup leaders have a key role in creating a culture of caring relationships. Genuine loving care extends beyond the two hours of playgroup! How can you show your interest in the playgroup families as real people, not just as names on a list or statistics for a program? Making contact with families outside playgroup time – phone calls to ask how things are going if a family is away; visiting families at home, stopping to chat at school, in the supermarket, wherever playgroup

Genuine loving care extends beyond the two hours of playgroup! How can you show your interest in the playgroup families as real people, not just as names on a list or statistics for a program?

families are encountered – is a simple but effective way of building friendship. It is a great idea to acknowledge birthdays of the children, and the adults if they are willing to share that information, by sending a card, or delivering a homemade cake or other small gift.

The Christian families within the playgroup should be encouraged and trained to be intentional and genuine in forming friendships with not yet Christian families, and to extend those friendships past the playgroup boundaries. Although as Christians we want to glorify and serve God, most of us appreciate support and encouragement as we learn how to be ambassadors for Christ. Playgroup leaders can have a huge impact simply by talking to Christian playgroup members about the role of the Christian families in the playgroup.

Several times a year have a meeting of the Christian families and other members of theplaygroup team to encourage them in playgroup ministry. Offer some training on topics that will help people turn their involvement in playgroup into an opportunity for ministry. Suggested topics include:

  • how to listen effectively (a basic skill for pastoral care),

  • basic Christian doctrine (the essentials of Christian faith),

  • communicating the gospel through word and action.

Use these meetings as opportunities to pray together for all the playgroup families, and for each other as you encounter the ups and downs of playgroup ministry.

Do all you can to ensure all the non-Christian families have at least one Christian family as a friend.If the Christians in the playgroup have caught the vision of playgroup as a ministry, it will be easier to encourage them to form friendships that might otherwise be out of their comfort zone.

Organise some social events where playgroup families can enjoy each other’s company. These could range from a picnic in the park to a childfree night out for dinner. Be creative and brainstorm a list of fun events that will appeal to your playgroup families. Be aware that some young families are on a tight budget, so low-cost activities may be appreciated.

A playgroup newsletter once a term is a great way of encouraging a sense of community. Share news, parenting tips, dates for the diary (including events that the church has organised to connect with families). If most families have internet, use email newsletters.

Whatever you do to connect with playgroup families, be genuine. Remember that real friendships take time and effort to build and maintain. One or two leaders cannot sustain that kind of commitment to all the playgroup families on their own. It really does take a team (and ideally the support of the parish) to be effective.