Playgroups are an opportunity for churches of all sizes across Queensland to connect with young families. Redcliffe Uniting Church, which has a 40-year history of running playgroups, currently hosts groups Monday to Friday during the school term with around 100 families attending. Journey asked Pastor Rebecca Clark, Children and Families Coordinator, about this thriving ministry.
How does playgroup fit into the church’s framework for family ministry?
We work hard to see playgroup as a “whole of church” activity—where many are involved to make playgroup happen. Older members come and serve morning tea or offer pastoral care. Others help prepare craft. Still others pray and support the work financially.
Asking, “how do we get these people to church (worship)?” is the wrong question. The fact that they come to playgroup means they are coming to church (our community); they are already our people. Our task is to create a community that develops them holistically; mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually.
This fundamentally changes our attitude from “us and them” to “us!”.
What happens in terms of Christian education?
It’s an integrated, relationally based approach. We incorporate Christian songs and stories into our program, Christian themes, but by and large it is about us being real to our faith. Showing care and concern, praying for one another and having natural conversations about faith.
We are blessed to partner with UnitingCare Community. They run a Children and Parenting Program on our facilities. This allows us to partner with regular Self Care Weeks at playgroups where parents are nurtured, educated and cared for.
What outcomes should congregations expect?
If playgroups are all about “bums on seats” you will go into such a ministry with the wrong attitude and you will be disappointed.
If you see playgroup as valuing those who come as children of God (kids and parents) with their own intrinsic worth, to be nurtured in the whole of life, including spirituality, you will make great friends and create a wonderful community. Some of these people will even choose to live out their faith by joining with you in things you do like running playgroup, caring for people at Christmas, supporting hurting kids and worship.
You can measure the impact of your playgroup by the numbers who come along (healthy groups grow), and the stories they tell of your impact.
Know this—it is a very long-term ministry. It is about building real relationships of trust that may not bear fruit for seven years or more.