Throughout the year in our churches we have regular weeks or months when we focus our prayers on specific activities and organisations: Bible month, Christian Aid week, Refugee week, Prisons week and more. One that has almost slipped by unnoticed has been the National Month of Prayer for Toddler Groups (It happens in June – if you missed it) and is organised by the Care for The Family 1277 Network which supports Church based toddler groups.
I think we underestimate the importance of Toddler groups within our churches and may even question their value as part of the churches mission. So I want to take this opportunity to encourage those of you who work in them week by week and to prompt those of you who pray regularly to support them in your prayers. I am privileged to be able to visit four of these groups which operate in our Methodist Churches as part of my remit for supporting children, families and youth work in the Methodist Circuit. Park Avenue, Kingsley Park and Queensgrove all run a group and Roade Methodist hosts a differently structured ‘Tea, Toast and Toys’ group run by the Archway Trust.
What I see as I visit the groups is the importance of community:
- A lively community – plenty of energy. Though sometimes sleep is a welcome thing too!
- A welcoming community – sometimes we wish the same people would visit more regularly but those who haven’t been able to come for a while are welcomed as if they have never been away.
- A diverse community – people from many different ethnicities are represented and celebrated.
- A playing community – A major part of the life of toddler groups.
- A creative community – Helping children (and parents sometimes) to develop their creative skills.
- A faith sharing community – through conversation, music and story-telling.
- A meeting community – Providing an environment where people can meet with each other to share concerns and experiences.
- A growing community – celebrating major events and achievements in the lives of children and carers.
- A caring community – Providing a listening ear and sometimes practical help for those struggling with major issues.
So it seems to me that God is at work in a wonderful way in our toddler groups and they have something to teach the wider church about how to get on with each other and build community and welcome those who are different but have common interests at heart.
Perhaps you would like to pray with me….
Thank you God for our toddler groups and those who work with young children: for the commitment of the leaders and helpers. For the children, babies, parents, grandparents and child minders who benefit from being part of these amazing communities that meet week by week. Thank you God that your kingdom grows through the meeting, the greeting, the playing, the sharing and the caring. Amen.