Mums and Toddlers groups are loved and cherished by those who come, and over time become owned by those visitors. A group seems to become popular if it offers clean toys, good coffee, home made cake and a warm welcome. If you hit those four things, word will quickly get around.
But often filling a building is not the main challenge. How can we make the group distinctly Christian? Because having happy people in a building, with Christians talking to Christians is not distinctly Christian. We have much more to offer than that.
Here are some steps you could consider
- Keep a high number of Christians in the group. Perhaps a ratio of 1: 4; Christians to guests is ideal. If the Christians are the tiny minority, then it will become a group run excellently but without the opportunity to bring Christ to bear.
- Let the Christians have 5 minutes to pray together before the doors are opened. Their children will be screaming, chatting and shouting, so the time will not be a model of focused prayer, but our Father hears every prayer. This helps leaders realise that what is about to happen is Ministry being done for their Father. It is a hard ministry. There is a great deal of tidying, carrying, lifting and drudgery, but it is still ministry. Pray for individuals by name. Pray for opportunities. Pray for Christ to be spoken about and glorified.
- Let every Christian identify 2 or 3 guests who they want to befriend, love and pray for. Get their numbers in your phone, get them in your diaries, keep them in your prayers. Commit to them.
- Let each Christian have a roadmap for the next 2 years of those friendships. In 3 months, aim to meet up away from the group for a trip to the park or a coffee. In 6 months, have a coffee in one another’s home. In a year, have a Sunday lunch with both families together. In 18 months invite them to Church. And so on. Just because you have a goal and a vision, does not stop it being a real friendship. Friendships are always deliberate. We always choose who we want to spend our time with.
- Keep a part of the Mums and Toddlers group for some Christian songs and a Christian story. Don’t expect too much from this time. Undoubtedly its possible for families to come to Christ through Action-Man-Jonah being swallowed by the giant cuddly fish, but its not common! Instead, this short time allows a message to be communicated that this is a Christian group and we believe the Bible stories not only to be engaging and relevant to children, but true and essential for adults. Just one line each week that speaks to guests like, “As Jesus calmed the storm, he showed that he had complete power of God’s world. In fact he showed he was God himself”
- Consider running Christianity Explored in a neighbouring room, with some of your Christian Mums (or Dads) looking after participants' children. Before the course, go around the group with a clipboard asking every individual personally if they want to attend. Conversations will happen!
Not wanting to be negative, but it is helpful to realise that Mums and Toddlers groups are a hard ministry that is only effective with very clear leadership and a great deal of determination. It is not that hard to get a lot of tired Mums into a building if you love them and offer them chocolate cake. It is much harder to build great friendships where Christ can be discussed.