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How to improve your church toddler group

A new report on church-based parent and toddler groups has analysed the benefits and pinpointed ways churches can run them better – and make more of the opportunities ...

A new report on church-based parent and toddler groups has analysed the benefits and pinpointed ways churches can run them better – and make more of the opportunities ...
 
To coincide with the national month of prayer for parent and toddler groups, Jubilee+ is publishing its latest in-depth study which confirms that toddler groups are an effective way of building relationships, sharing faith and creating the basis for child development.
 
Parent and toddler groups are one of the most common church-based social action initiatives. Research in other studies shows that approximately 27,000 UK churches run early years projects and 52% of children in England access some form of parent and toddler group via churches.
 
These community actions transcend the ebb and flow of government-backed early years initiatives but the impacts that these groups report vary. The Jubilee+ study concludes that there are several factors such as church leadership support, training of volunteers, designating team roles and prayer which all have a positive link with reported impact.
 
Consulting with networks Who Let the Dads Out, Care for the Family, 1277 Make them Count, Messy Church, Praise and Play, Spurgeons Network and the National Parenting Initiative, Jubilee+ conducted a national survey across all denominations looking at the impact of church-based toddler groups upon children, their parents / carers, the group volunteers and the churches that run those groups.
 
The survey provides evidence to support the ‘intuitive’ conclusions that most experienced early years practitioners have about parent and toddler groups. However, it shows that the key to greater impact is for groups to be ‘intentional’ about what they do.
 
Therefore, churches that want to make an impact in their communities through engaging with families with young children should establish where there is the most need and then deliberately set up a long-term group with a properly trained, resourced and well organised team.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Church leadership should make sure that groups feel at least somewhat supported by them
  • Groups should persevere through their first year and not expect too much impact too soon
  • Churches should set up groups which deliberately target sections of their communities, but make sure that there is a good mix of Christians or church members
  • Local statutory authorities should build a long-term connection with Church-based parent and toddler group provision
  • Groups should designate specific roles to team members, particularly in making someone responsible for welcoming adults and children
  • Groups should train the majority of team members in relevant disciplines
  • Groups with greater prayer support report greater impact
  • Groups should seek to grow beyond a handful of children attending, recognising that friends and relations are the most likely people who will come if invited
  • Groups should not be too concerned about the precise activity model they use, but there are some specific goals that may be helped by specific activities
  • Church-based parent and toddler groups should connect up and use the resources and expertise of specialist networks

In summary, churches that want to make an impact in their communities through engaging with families with young children should establish where there is the most need and then deliberately set up a long-term group with a properly trained, resourced and well organised team.
 
Church leaders need not be directly involved, but should make sure that the group feels supported and that the church’s mission and vision aligns with the group’s goals.
 
Churches that do so can expect growth in the capability and outward focus of its people, as well as in the scope for making connection within their community and increasing the opportunity to connect people with other worthwhile activities that the church undertakes. Such impact might not be numerically spectacular, but is likely to be of immense value to specific individuals.

Read the full report.

You'll also find more at www.jubilee-plus.org/research

PHOTO: Shutterstock/Olesia Bilkei

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