How many churches today lament that they have no children or youth in their aging congregation? Sadly, in my small community this is all too common a problem. Recently, however, I discovered two resources that made my eyes light up with possibilities.
Pray & Play: playgroup with a purpose is a book of devotionals for small groups of young mothers with preschool children. These devotions are short and insightful helping both mother and child to grow in their understanding of God and to help develop healthy relationships with others. Play activities are included for mothers and their children to interact with each other making it fun for everyone.
Any Christian woman with a heart for young mothers and their children could initiate such a group. The meeting place could be in a backyard, a playground or park, or in a church or home. Keeping it simple and natural is key to getting off to a good start.
When my daughter was three years old I joined a Bible study group with other young mothers that truly shaped who I am as a Christian today, more than forty years later. We chose one Bible study after another that we found at the Christian bookstore and our children played at our feet as we enjoyed our lessons. I see this Pray & Play approach as an ideal stepping stone for bringing a group of mothers and children together for such a group.
Pray & Play is created and published by Stonecroft Ministries, an interdenominational organization that has published several wonderful Bible studies starting at the beginner level and moving deeper into more advanced studies. They offer much support for those who wish to use their materials as you can see in the Pray & Play link above. I highly recommend their studies.
A second discovery is another book by almost the same name that is for pre-school children and could be used simultaneously with a group of children whose mothers are doing Bible study in a separate room. The Pray & Play Bible For Young Children is published by Group Publishing who also publishes great VBS materials and more for children. This book is a collection of fourteen favorite Bible lessons written for preschool aged children, and there is a sequel, Pray & Play Bible 2 with fourteen more Bible lessons. Each story is beautifully illustrated with nine pages of text and full color illustrations followed by three more pages of songs, prayers, crafts, and activities ideally suited for preschoolers. An older homeschool child, teen, or grandparent could lead the children’s Pray & Play while their mothers meet for Bible study or the mothers could take turns leading the children’s activities.
The Pray & Play Bible could also be used in a weekly Mother’s Morning Out babysitting service or similar program. What steps has your church taken to engage young families, and to welcome them into your church family?