In the February issue of Premier Youth and Children’s Work, we featured toddler groups up and down the country. We had so many great stories of how people are reaching out to young families that we couldn’t fit them all in one article. Here’s one that has successfully broken the barrier between the toddler group and the church.
Gill Ives lives in Eastbourne and is one of the leaders of the parent and toddler ministry at her church. They have been exploring creating a link between toddler groups and the wider church community.
“Our church hosts an event called Fusion. The name came about as we wanted to link our very active toddler sessions with the wider church family, and so the idea of the two groups ‘fusing’ together was born.
We began our Fusion events for Christmas 2008. It was a great success and involved many members of the church of all ages. These events take place twice a year at Christmas and Easter. It is a time for church family to meet some of the families that attend our weekly sessions. It has been great to see the fellowship supporting the Fusion events, although at first some people didn’t quite like the idea that it wasn’t “church in the normal sense”. With lots of prayer and hard work from a dedicated team, plus back up from our leadership, we have been able to slowly convince people that it’s OK to have fun with the gospel message and go a bit crazy occasionally! Last Christmas we held our tenth Fusion event.
Gradually we have developed a format for these events, which includes a narrated story, active songs, games, craft, and gifts in and on the way out. All our volunteers wear their group T-shirts, so parents see a friendly and familiar face. Over the years we have had the same families attending and have built up good relationships with them. Some will only come to church twice a year, but I see it as being better than not at all, plus we are sharing two of the most important messages of all – Jesus’ birth and resurrection.
We have had several families now become part of the church family through attending toddler or baby groups and even some baptisms, which is fantastic! I believe we are not here to make people Christians, only God can do that, but I believe we are seed-sowers, through building up trust with parents, listening to them, getting to know their children. Only then can we begin to invite them to events that are happening. All the team is passionate about Fusion – it’s worth the sleepless nights on my part!”