Child playing with duplo

Playing, praying, praising

The church is the biggest provider of playgroups in the UK. However, for fear of alienating parents, many fail to include any element of faith in the format. Through your support, here’s how one church bucked that trend and in doing so bonded church and community together.

Faith Guide Tina

Faith Guide Tina Johnson belongs to a traditional Anglican church in Knotty Ash. She has a background in Early Years education, so when one of the few mums in church asked if they could set up a weekly playgroup, Tina offered to organise it, supported by others in the church and Diocese.

Although the playgroup was aimed at non-church families, all agreed that faith should be part of the format. Appropriately named Praise and Play, it’s very relaxed and informal – a safe space for parents and children where they all feel valued and accepted.

Tina says, ‘We start by sitting in a circle to sing a welcome song which leads to a Bible story. Then we get up and move around to more music, or the toddlers and mums might just sit and cuddle. We also have really simple crafts or activities that include even the babies. Then we have a snack, and the mums have a chat and the kids have a chat. Finally, we pray – mums, helpers and children right round the circle pray now. Some of the children are actually leading the prayers by the time they’re school age!

"You’ve got to build relationships, get to know them."

‘Praise and Play is aimed at parents as much as at the children. It’s so important that parents feel at home, that the group is theirs. As they join in, the idea is that they get a basic understanding of faith, because children really need that support at home if they’re to keep journeying with Jesus.

‘Often non-Christian parents have a real fear around the language offaith and not being good enough or clever enough. You can’t just go steaming in with the Bible. You’ve got to build relationships, get to know them, show that you really care about them. It starts to challenge their preconceptions.

‘Only then can you really start talking about Jesus and the difference he makes to life. Only then will they be receptive. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that this all takes time.’

But patience has paid off: some of the Praise and Play parents and children have found faith for themselves. A few mums have even started to come to church services.

But what next?

Nic Findlay Rj Pioneer

More recently, Nic Findlay, SU’s Revealing Jesus Pioneer based in Liverpool, has been helping Tina to think through, ‘What next?’ ‘I really wanted to bring together the playgroup on one side of the street, and church parents on the other,’ says Tina. ‘Both groups were desperate for something to do with their children over the summer.

So Nic and I set up “Praise and Play” sessions for them all – an hour of group games to get them mixing, then a communal lunch and chat.’ Nic says, ‘We went from “What’s your favourite tea?” to sharing what was going on in our lives and by the second week, the two groups really became one, all praying together for each other before we left. It was a really beautiful space to be part of.

Easter Matters Header

Easter without the jargon

As Tina says, non-Christian parents can have a fear of the language of faith. It’s vitally important that we communicate key Christian truths to them and their children in clear, simple terms.

Why not check out our latest Easter resource, Easter Matters, that will help you do just that this Easter.

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