boy blowing bubbles

Because playgroup offers the opportunity to meet with other parents and to allow their children to socialise with other children and participate in activities that are educational, it attracts people who might otherwise have no interest in the church. When they come to the playgroup they are then attracted by the quality of the program. They see that an effort is being made to offer the best possible experience of playgroup. They perceive the quality of the relationships within the playgroup team. They experience the love and the respect that is offered to them and nurtured amongst the playgroup families. Because the playgroup families know that they are coming to a church-run playgroup the "religion" barrier has already been moved to one side. As long as there is genuine respect and friendship in the relationship, regardless of what they believe, there will be many opportunities to share the gospel.

If the parish is serious about evangelism, resources need to be put into training as many members of the parish as possible to evangelise.

Good relationships will contribute to the wellbeing of playgroup families, and help in the personal development and growth of the playgroup members. However, the benefit of coming to experience the power of the gospel in their lives will only happen if the playgroup families hear and respond to the gospel. They will only be able to hear and respond in the playgroup context if the Christians in the playgroup take the opportunity to evangelise.

If the parish is serious about evangelism, resources need to be put into training as many members of the parish as possible to evangelise. All members of the playgroup team need to know what they believe and how to share their story of Jesus with others. In multi-cultural Australian society it may take particular dedication, tact and patience to overcome perceived and real religious and cultural barriers.

Prayer is a vital part of the playgroup ministry. Any evangelistic and pastoral care focus is going to raise spiritual opposition. Paul's words in Ephesians 6:10-20 should be taken seriously, including his exhortation to pray. The playgroup team should be encouraged to pray regularly for the playgroup families. They should pray whenever they meet together, and before every playgroup session. They should be ready to offer to pray with or for members of the playgroup as a natural expression of care and friendship. But prayer should never be used as a way to preach at people or an excuse to not listen with empathy to the stories that are shared.

In the playgroup context aggressive evangelism is likely to fail. It is important to concentrate on the quality of relationships, characterised by love, respect and trust.

There may be others in the parish able to share in the playgroup ministry as prayer supporters. Be careful never to gossip about playgroup families and don’t share any information given in confidence. Effective prayer does not always depend on knowing every detail, since it is a two-way conversation with God, who already knows everything about those we are praying for.

In the playgroup context aggressive evangelism is likely to fail.It is important to concentrate on the quality of relationships, characterised by love, respect and trust. In this atmosphere there are many pastoral care opportunities. The playgroup team should be trained to listen much and give little advice, and to refer to appropriate help. This may include other ministries within the parish or other resources in the wider community. Pastoral care is valid in its own right, with no strings attached. Good pastoral care can also create opportunities for evangelism, as well as enabling people to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Playgroup evangelism should concentrate on the parents. If they are converted, they will evangelise their own children. Parents are the most significant people in bringing their children to faith. It may be avoiding the issue to pitch Christmas or Easter presentations towards the two-year-olds in the playgroup if that is the only "evangelism" that occurs. However, as part of a intentional strategy, parents with little knowledge of the Christian faith can learn basic facts from listening to the stories of Christmas and Easter.