If you are thinking of starting a new group or are looking for ideas and resources for a group you already run, please remember these three words – keep it simple.
Not only do groups need to be manageable for volunteers (usually) to run, but they also need to be sustainable – for other leaders to take on, and finally recognisable so that there are familiar things for children and young people to feel comfortable with each time they come. There is no point trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ or make things ‘all singing all dancing’. Stick to good practice, remember the basics, and provide something solid and sustainable.
Here are some ideas for various types of groups you may be involved with or may be considering setting up…
Parents & Toddlers – Some statistics – even though there are less groups running in the Diocese than other groups for children and young people, parent & toddler groups reach a higher number of children on average 21 per group. This provides an excellent opportunity for mission, outreach and discipleship.
If you are considering setting up a Parent & Toddler group but are worried about space, resources or leadership – why not consider “Walk and talk”. This works in the same way as a traditional Parent & Toddler group, bringing parents and children together for fellowship, learning and possible discipleship. The format is simple – meet at a certain time at church or church hall to begin your walk. Plan a route which is easy for pushchairs and toddlers who are just walking, consider taking in a park as part of your route. Finish up with time for coffee together back at church or church hall (or a coffee shop if you are really struggling for facilities) with squash and biscuits. Emphasise the fitness element in your advertising and build in things for socialising (for both parents and children) and education if you can (e.g. scavenger hunts/nature trails as part of your route). You might also think about the timing of the “Walk and talk” to fit in with a regular service at your church to encourage parents and children to attend either before the walk begins or after coffee at the end.
Children’s Group – The most successful children’s groups are run as after school clubs. However, Sunday Schools are still a popular way to provide children’s teaching during Sunday worship. Whatever your style it is important to have a fairly rigid format that children can become familiar with quickly and which makes things a whole lot easier for those running the group.
Try this Children’s Group Format
Messy Church – One of the key elements of Messy Church is a ‘celebration’ – usually at the end. To get the children involved and to link in the story/theme with the worship songs are very important. You might struggle to find someone to lead with a piano/guitar or may not be very confident at singing. Again, don’t run before you can walk. There are lots of great songs out there with actions, songs with videos on youtube that you can sing along to but there are also some really great simple songs. Some of the best of these are set to familiar tunes e.g. nursery rhymes. Here are some ideas but why not try it yourself?
Noah’s Ark theme (To the tune of “Muffin Man”)
Oh do you see the animals The animals, the animals Do you see the animals Marching off the ark
God saved all the animals The animals, the animals God saved all the animals Saved them from the flood
Discipleship theme (To the tune of “Mary had a little lamb”)
We can be a follower, follower, follower, We can be a follower, of our Lord Jesus Christ
I can be a follower, follower, follower, I can be a follower, of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Insert name of child) can be a follower, follower, follower, (Insert name of child) can be a follower, of our Lord Jesus Christ
Jonah and the Whale (To the tune of “I’m a little teapot”)
Jonah ran from God to get away
He didn’t want to hear what God had to say.
He climbed on board a boat and sailed to sea
He told the Lord to let him be.
God said to Jonah, “not so fast”,
My time with you has not yet passed.
The Lord sent a storm and rocked the boat
Jonah fell into the sea and tried to float.
A fish swam by and swallowed the man
Jonah prayed, “Lord, I’m sorry I ran”
God forgave Jonah after three days
Jonah thanked God and was on his way.
Youth Group – Games are a key part of any ministry to young people and finding a game which they enjoy can be a great way to get all of them on board at the beginning of a session or if things have not gone to plan, to pull things back together again. Whilst some of them may seem just a way to break the ice or have fun, there are plenty of ways to link your games with what you are doing.
Here are some ideas for a whole games session based on Jesus as the Light of the World
Games session – Light of the world
Holiday Club – Registration can be one of the trickiest things to coordinate as part of running a Holiday Club. Make sure on Day 1 that you have a form for parents/guardians to complete which covers all essentials you wish to gain permission for and all details you will need. Including; name, age, date of birth, emergency contact details (including a mobile number), allergies/medical information, permission for photographs to be taken, confirmation that a parent/guardian will collect at a certain time, permission to be contacted about other events and anything else you feel would be helpful.
Once you have that initial form you can create a simple register of names which can be used each day. This can be simply ticked off as each child comes in and retained in a folder with each child’s details.
To make things quick and easy why not use a system where children also sign themselves in? Each child can create a sticker/label with their name on and add it to a board once they arrive. This is in addition to be paper register (needed for health and safety reasons) but is a creative way to get them involved. It can also be useful for sorting the children into groups or teams.
Don’t forget to ‘check in’ next week for more ideas and resources. This blog is updated weekly.