boy at a table

In April this year we started our first Playgroup at St Mark’s. The idea was to invite 10-12 families to meet together, 4 from the church and the rest from the community. As the weeks got closer to our launch, my level of panic also increased as I had 0 people enrolled. After months of planning and distributing about 150 brochures, this was something of a concern and some frantic praying began along the line of ‘Dear God, have I got it wrong? Do you want Playgroups at St Mark’s? If you do, please bring some people along!’ Well about a week or so before we launched the phone calls began and they haven’t stopped. We are now running two Playgroups and will look to extend this in the new year. Our structure is as follows:

We meet all together for 2 hours a week. I started the times at 9.30-11.30 and am about to change one group to 9-11am and the other to 10-12noon to best suit the needs of the group. The joy of keeping the groups small is that it allows greater interaction between the mums and children, and also greater flexibility. Once a month in lieu of Playgroup we run a Parenting Seminar and crèche. On these weeks some regular church carers mind the children and the mums head upstairs to hear from a presenter on a variety of issues from a variety of people (a teacher, physio, psychologist & church warden!). So far we have covered ‘Starting Family Traditions’, ‘Women’s Health’, ‘Mothering Matters’ and ‘Women’s Wealth’. Later this year we will be following up with ‘Mothering Matters 2’ and ‘Tough Questions Children Ask’. These seminars have proved very successful! The mums love being able to sit and chat with each other, get some support and have a quiet coffee while knowing that their children are safe and nearby. They are always very excited when I say the words ‘next week is Parenting Seminar week’! We’re also going for dinner at the end of each term and are planning an end of year ‘Family Picnic’.

I have found that the interaction between Playgroup and church comes much more naturally than I expected. I offer a ‘Parenting Library’ with a variety of good books – including the Boundaries books, and a FANTASTIC book called ‘Disciplines of a Godly Family’ by Kent & Barbara Hughes (the presenter for the ‘Starting Family Traditions’ session used this book as a base and it’s been well-read ever since), Chapman’s ‘4 Seasons of Marriage’ and of course, the ‘5 Love Languages’ series. This library has been a great, non-threatening way to introduce our families to the faith. We have already seen families visit us at church, with one family considering attending our Parish Weekend Away at the end of the year, and a couple of mums coming along to our ‘Connexions’ social nights for women. There is a natural affinity between the church and non-church mums, and it’s just fabulous to see real rapport building. I’ve recently had a Scripture Union booklet recommended, ‘Raising Kids with Faith’ and I am going to be equipping all my church mums with these booklets which they can share with the other mums in the group, when they feel it would be appropriate.

Each group is different though, and as I am discovering you have to work hard at making things work – but God is good, and it is a great reminder and reassurance to know that he loves these families more than I ever can and he will be working in their lives to bring them to him, in his own time and according to his own will. I will keep on serving him & pray with the assurance that he will grow great things in the lives of his people! May he also be blessing you and your families, in your ministry.

Louisa Raggatt, Children's & Families Minister

Children's & Families & Playgroups Newsletter, Term 4, 2006