It looks like there is not much happening. Parents, carers and grandparents are sitting around chatting and drinking coffee. One or two are pushing prams back and forth to settle babies. There are squeals from the children as they run around, play with old toys, and climb on the play equipment.
Playgroup can appear a rather unspectacular ministry. But great things can happen if we make the most of the opportunities Playgroup creates. It can be a place where we can be reaching out to our community with the love of Christ and growing believers as they serve and talk about their faith. Imagine with me:
Kirsten had just had her third child and was finding the experience of caring for the new addition vaguely similar to the sensation of falling off the edge of a very high cliff. Not that she had time to think about that, or anything actually, in between feeding small mouths, changing nappies, washing, cooking, and everything else.
Her work colleagues seemed to be living in another world where sleep was a normal part of each day and meals were eaten leisurely while sitting down.
Playgroup became a highlight of her week. There were other parents there who understood, and actually offered to hold the baby and watch the other two children while she went to the bathroom (by herself!) or sent her off to make a cup of tea.
Kirsten had never been interested in religion but she was intrigued by some of the other women at Playgroup who seemed to have this love and peace even amidst struggling with the same challenges of parenting. One reason Kirsten kept coming back to Playgroup was the welcome. She could show up without makeup and dragging a toddler who refused to wear pants, and instead of judgmental glances, she always received a friendly smile.
Playgroup can be the first step a person like Kirsten takes towards Jesus. It might be the first place they hear the Bible read or meet a practicing Christian.
On a surface level, Playgroups provide a valuable community service as places where young children learn social skills and have space to run around or ride bikes. They also provide a place where people meet and form relationships that open doors for the gospel. And the gospel is not just for the parents and carers. The children hear Bible stories and participate in prayers and songs. It is hard, if not impossible to measure the value and effectiveness of these things yet we can be sure there is value in it.
Mel didn’t need to go to Playgroup for the company. She had plenty of friends through church and school now that her eldest was in Year 1. Going to Playgroup meant helping set up the morning tea and packing up the toys. Her youngest son would have been happy to spend time with her at home after the school run. But Mel knew Kirsten would probably be there. She knew Kirsten had questions about Jesus. She was nervous that she might not be able to answer them. But there were others from church there too, so perhaps they could help.
Playgroups provide amazing opportunities for Christians to serve their community and each other. It does take hard work to make a Playgroup happen, and planning, commitment and sometimes sacrifice. Yet serving alongside other believers is an important way we grow together in godliness and love. It is right that we encourage each other to serve and use the opportunities each stage of life affords to glorify God.
Alongside other Christians is also a great place to gain confidence in talking about our faith and hope in Jesus. We don’t need to be doing evangelism on our own. One life and one voice can be a light in a dark place. Playgroup is a place where newcomers can see the Christian life lived out in community but also hear the truth as life is shared.
Playgroup is a ministry filled with stories of parents, grandparents, carers of all kinds, preschoolers, toddlers and infants, and those rare special people who come to serve just because they can—even without children! Playgroups create wonderful opportunities for believers to grow as they talk about their faith, serve in unspectacular ways, and welcome parents and children with the love of Christ. It can also be a way into a Christian community, a place where people hear about the difference Jesus makes from someone facing the same challenges in life.
Do you know if these great things are happening in your playgroup? Rather than asking someone, ‘How’s playgroup going?’, why not ask, ‘How can you see God working at playgroup?’