older woman and child

 

The importance of building strong connections between the playgroup and the church is often either underestimated or taken for granted. However, church playgroups rarely survive through generations of playgroup families and changes in leadership unless careful attention is paid to the relationship between the playgroup and the local church. Just as importantly, the impact of the playgroup as a ministry of the church will be profoundly influenced by the degree and quality of the connections between playgroup and church.

An important factor in the success of playgroup as an intentional ministry of the church is that it is part of the vision and priorities of the parish.

An important factor in the success of playgroup as an intentional ministry of the church is that it is part of the vision and priorities of the parish. For those wanting to start a playgroup, the starting point should always be to involve the leaders and decision makers of the parish in discerning whether playgroup ministry will be supported as part of the wider parish vision. So talk to the clergy and members of Vestry. Share your own vision, talk about why playgroup can be a ministry of the parish and how other churches have used playgroup to connect with families in their local community.

Playgroup needs to be approved by Vestry, so that it can be resourced and supported by the Vestry, and because the parish’s insurance policy will apply to the playgroup as an approved ministry of the parish. This will also give you the opportunity to provide regular reports to Vestry. This is an important way of helping to maintain playgroup as a priority ministry.

You can be creative with your reports. Include a human-interest story about families in the playgroup (you may be able to ask some of the families to contribute a few sentences saying what they appreciate about the playgroup). Do a profile of a member of the playgroup team, what their role on the team is, the skills that they bring to that role, how their unique gifts support the playgroup ministry. Create a PowerPoint with photos and dot points highlighting aspects of the playgroup. Do a hands-on presentation of a typical playgroup activity (playdough would be a classic) and why it is part of your playgroup program. If the leaders and decision makers of your parish are well informed and educated about the playgroup, they will be more likely to value and support it.

Promoting the playgroup to the congregation is equally important. Again, use a variety of creative presentations so that the playgroup ministry is noticed and valued by the church. Unlike the children’s and families ministry programs that happen when the wider church community is meeting on Sunday, your church will not know much about playgroup unless you tell them and show them.

Most importantly, have members of the church on the playgroup team – intergenerational, parents and grandparents attending with their own playgroup age children or grandchildren, and men as well as women.

Use as many opportunities as possible to let members of the congregation know about the playgroup ministry.

Most importantly, have members of the church on the playgroup team – intergenerational, parents and grandparents attending with their own playgroup age children or grandchildren, and men as well as women. There may be people in your church who do not have small children but who are able to come to playgroup to be a friend to the playgroup families. Playgroup ministry is all about developing caring friendships where there is openness and opportunity to share the love of Christ. Ask God to show you the people in your church who you can invite to be on the playgroup team.

Ask the members of the church to support the playgroup ministry in as many different ways as possible. You may have a group who will pray regularly (provide prayer notes, remembering to respect the privacy of playgroup families). Other ways people could support the playgroup include preparing craft, collecting recycled materials for craft and play activities, supporting a casserole ministry and/or pamper packs for playgroup families with new babies, cleaning or mending playgroup equipment … even being the parish playgroup publicist!

If possible, arrange for regular visits to playgroup by the parish clergy. Giving your clergy the opportunity to be known by playgroup families can open up many opportunities for pastoral ministry, which will be appreciated by both the clergy and the playgroup families.

When thinking about connections with the church there can be a tendency to think about how we can get playgroup families through the church doors. Often the success or failure of playgroup ministry is measured by how many families begin attending church on Sundays. The strength of playgroup ministry is the opportunity it provides for the local church to connect with families, in an environment that both the families and the church find comfortable and non-threatening. In this environment, we have the opportunity to be intentional about sharing the love of Christ, through the friendships that develop over time. If the connection between the church community and the playgroup is strong, and the parish as a whole values and supports the playgroup as “our ministry”, the chances of families being welcomed and ministered to when they do eventually walk through the church doors are much higher.