As Children & Families Workers across the Diocese are weighing up what’s possible and what’s not this autumn, Jules Harrison from the Parish of Minehead has moved outdoors one household at a time, with a new initiative called ‘Pop-Up Toddler Church’.
This time last year Toddler Church at St Andrew’s in the centre of Minehead was growing and connecting with an increasing number of parents and children. A faith based multisensory baby and toddler group meeting every Wednesday in term time. Of course, Covid restrictions and lockdown put a stop to that but now with some creativity, careful planning and plenty of prayer Pop-Up Toddler Church has been born! Jules takes up the story…
Pop-Up Toddler Church is proving to be amazing! At the moment, I meet one household at a time and we are meeting outside, whatever the weather. Our Toddler Church commitments and ethos haven’t changed, but they have needed a tweak. For example, each session is multisensory, but we do not sing or use candles, instead we clap and use a torch. I encourage signing, which is useful when there are little ones who cannot yet talk. Each session consists of a prayer, Bible verse, craft, game, time for a snack and a chance for some adult conversation.
We have been meeting in Blenheim Gardens (a public park in Minehead) to begin with as there are lots of trees, sticks, leaves and acorns, and a large conker tree just outside. Our themes this half term are harvest, change and hope so having all these free, natural resources available is great. We hope to meet at the beach next month, as well as local woodlands and parks. I also offer to visit families at home if they have a suitable outdoor space.
Pop-Up Toddler Church is proving to be amazing! The families are really embracing it, the kids love the one-on-one time and the grown-ups are truly opening up about their lockdown experiences and engaging in some very fruitful conversations.
I have always been keen to hold sessions outside, so even though I am missing out on the group aspect, this new way of doing things is working well for me. Each session can be tailored to the specific children. If I know that a certain child really enjoys messy play, then I can tweak the session to their needs. And the same goes for the grown-ups. It is a much more personal approach compared to our traditional Toddler Church. I find that the grown-ups open up a lot more with this one-to-one approach. I listen as they talk about their experiences of lockdown, of home-schooling, of the changes and this new world that we are now living in. Some really fruitful conversations have been had this week, and I pray that with time, the relationships will strengthen and these conversations will continue.
The sessions were initially going to be half an hour, but every one this week has been at least an hour. The children seem to really like it. Their feedback is more in the way that they engage in the activities. The little boy that I met on Wednesday got so upset when it was over that I went for a walk along the beach with the family afterwards!
Parents have asked to meet weekly, and every family that I have met with have booked back in for next week. Today I received an email from a lady that does not normally attend any of our provisions, asking for info on the Pop-Up sessions. We are meeting next week.
I think it is brilliant that our church family can grow, even without the use of the church buildings. I have felt drawn to lead on this sort of provision for some time now, it is where my passion lies, in the outdoors. To be able to turn a really sad situation like the inability to have children’s groups in our churches at the moment, into something positive means the world to me. God is so good!
Report from Jules Harrison is Children & Families Worker for Minehead Parish.
For more info and updates on Pop-Up Toddler Church in Minehead check out The Parish of Minehead Children and Families on Facebook.
And for further guidance and support on running groups for children and families do contact one of our Go Team Advisers