In September, to mark the end of my first year of employment as a children and families worker, I made a presentation to the PCC. When I listed my workload, it transpired that few people round the table had any idea what I did on any other day of the week barring Sunday and they felt the wider church should know. So here is a whistle-stop tour of my main activities in the past 12 months.
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Much of this you don’t see. I calculate that for every hour I have spent actually meeting with people I have probably done on average at least an hour and a half of work behind the scenes in terms of sourcing ideas, emailing invites, calling meetings, getting helpers, using social network, designing posters, buying resources at discount prices and basically, making sure that everything runs like clockwork and is properly risk assessed! Most of the time I am pleased to say that we have had everything we need in the right place at the right time.
As we are learning form the Imagine church models which were discussing here on Wednesday evening our models for the way we do church need to change. Being church is not what we do in here in this hour and a half on Sunday, it is about what we are doing in our own environments during the rest of the week. I feel privileged to have been a part of the change, along with Sally, as between us we have been given the vision for the ploughing work that needs doing in our community.
I showed you a photo of Isla the smiler – the Mum who moved into Cwrt Y Gollen on a Saturday just after Easter and was in the Parish Hall at 9.30 on Monday because she knew she would find friendship there. I know that if I am out and about and I see a Crick Primary uniform I have to make sure I am smiling as I will always be recognised and expected to say hello. I am recognised in town and I do tell them what I do. That is my witness and my outreach into the community here on your behalf. I know I am in a very privileged position and have a tremendous opportunity here to reach out and with your help and support I would like to continue to do so.
- I am very grateful to Ali Stedman, who is my first point of contact,
- To Ros, Ali, Helen and Sue who between them help to keep Messy Monday fed and watered
- to the amazing team at Family@4, not least Sue Letson, who are full of brilliant ideas and really love the work.
- And to you as a congregation here who give your financial and prayerful support to this ministry/
Right across the country, every day of the week, local churches are opening their doors to welcome in people from different backgrounds, races and religious beliefs. And in they come: around 2 million of them, from the tiniest newborn babies to the most confident and boisterous toddlers.
Once inside they find a warm, dry, safe place to play. What else they find is then totally dependent on the facilities available and the leaders who run the group. They may find…
- A large room packed with colourful toys and a bustling crowd of toddlers completely absorbed in play, with chatting adults producing a background hubbub almost sufficient to drown out the cries of the babies.
A small, quiet group of breastfeeding mothers and newborns who gather over cups of coffee to talk about the challenges of parenting and support each other in the ups and downs of life.
- A highly structured session, including a song time, story time and craft.
An hour or more in which to explore the various toys and activities as they choose.
No matter how the group operates, the toddlers enter a stimulating, educational environment with the opportunity to develop new skills and socialise with other children outside of their home.
So, who else benefits?
These little ones, mostly in the first 1,277 days of their lives, are always accompanied by an adult carer, whether this is a parent (male or female), a grandparent or other relative, a friend, a childminder or a nanny.
These adults bring them to the toddler group for a variety of reasons; perhaps they appreciate the numerous ways that their children benefit from being in the group, perhaps they enjoy socialising with the other adults, or perhaps they need a bit of support. That support might take the form of a friendly word of advice from the toddler group leader (most of whom are volunteers and many of whom have children of their own) or a simple word of encouragement from a fellow carer. For many who are engaged in the tough job of caring for small children, their toddler group is a real lifeline and the relationships that start there may last a lifetime.