I often hear people complaining that society has changed for the worse, and our young people are growing up in an increasingly dangerous world. The media gives us the impression that crime rates are rising, family values are disappearing, neighbourhoods are fracturing, and every toddler in the country has a smart phone. True or not, it should make us wonder what kind of society we’ll have in 10 years’ time? How can we make a positive impact in this culture?
I think one of the ways forward is through investing time, money, and energy in our church-led toddler groups. The bible explicitly tells us to train up our young people:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Toddler groups can make a great difference in our churches and surrounding communities, so we all need to play a part in supporting them, particularly through prayer. Simply put, prayer changes things!
When it comes to the kingdom of God, we’re not in competition.
Similarly, God does great things when we work together as His family. I’m a pastor of an independent church, but instead of starting my own toddler group, I decided to support the local Anglican church. They were struggling to find volunteers to run the group, so I now run it for them! When it comes to the kingdom of God, we’re not in competition. We serve the same God and the same community, so why not work together?
Church-led toddler groups give us fantastic opportunities to build community, but they’re also an amazing way to do evangelism – 97% of the members at my toddler group are non-believers. We’re often so concerned with making sure we go ‘out there’ to speak about Jesus, that we forget about all the people who are willing to come right to our door step!
With all this in mind, let’s consider what culture we set in our toddler groups. My church is based in Southall, and the community I serve is mainly Asian, with many Hindus and Muslims. I’m not an expert on toddler groups, but I’d like to share some tips and experiences, particularly from the perspective of a multicultural community…
We’re often so concerned with making sure we go ‘out there’ to speak about Jesus, that we forget about all the people who are willing to come right to our door step!
- Always make people feel welcome: When someone feels that they are respected and welcomed, they will be more likely to have an open heart and listen to what we have to say.
- Be accommodating: Most of our toddlers and their carers are from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, and some don’t speak fluent English. But just because someone can’t speak a language we understand, doesn’t mean that they are any less valuable – they can speak another language fluently that we don’t speak! Practically, I make sure that all important announcements are translated into other languages, and normally other parents can help with this. Also, food is a key ice-breaker. Just be mindful that those who don’t eat beef or pork, for example, are still catered for.
- Get everyone involved: When parents and carers help out, they’re able to take ownership of the ministry and it’s easier to build bridges. I find this is particularly true with dads, who can sometimes feel out of place in toddler groups. Make sure they feel involved by finding ways for them to help out and use their skills.
- Don’t forget the purpose: Sharing the love of God is the purpose of a church-led toddler group. We should never compromise on that. Sometimes we concentrate on all the other things, and lose sight of our core purpose. It doesn’t have to feel like you crowbar in the gospel message, there are plenty of natural, fun ways to do it. For example, I encourage parents to bring cake for their child’s birthday, and after we sing and eat, I offer to pray blessings on the child.
- Keep in touch: When children turn three, they move on to nursery, but I try to still invite the older children and carers back for trips and Christmas parties. If possible, why not think about starting a kids’ club that children can move onto after toddler groups, to stay connected to the church.
Imagine if we were to have a few good Christian toddler groups in each city – we could change whole communities with the power of the gospel! The key is to think creatively, serve together, and let’s build the kingdom of God…
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