Mutley Baptist Church in Plymouth had run a successful toddler group for 21 years, set up with the aim of showing Jesus to their community through their actions. It was held on two mornings a week and was structured to allow children an opportunity for messy play, a snack and then a time to hurtle round the hall while the grown-ups enjoyed a cup of coffee.
Five years ago, organisers took the opportunity to relaunch the group with the new name Buzzy Bees – and the group is now a hive of activity. Anne Brindley, Families Worker at Mutley Baptist said: "We wanted to make more impact on our local community and it’s wonderful how it has flourished and grown and we give God all the thanks for that."
Alongside the name change there were more significant changes to make the ministry more accessible and beneficial to all. Since babies and toddlers have different daytime sleep patterns, Buzzy Bees is now open for mornings and afternoons each week to try to meet the needs of as many families as possible.
The Buzzy Bees’ team were aware that men can often feel very uncomfortable when they walk into a playgroup full of women and babies so to make Dads feel more welcome, café style tables and chairs were introduced. As a result the number of men coming has risen dramatically..
Buzzy Bees now provides better quality refreshments including good coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino and mocha at the touch of a button and healthy snacks like fruit and rice cakes every session. Play areas in the hall are now more defined and children can choose whatever they want to do – painting, puzzles, play dough, cars, climbing, running, reading, home corner, and baby corner.
A families group runs every Saturday, which allows the church to get to know older, school-age children and Buzzy Bees is committed to staying open during the holidays - a big obligation but an opportunity to offer a unique service.
Buzzy Bees leader, Anne Bridley said: "Building relationships and being Jesus to the families is still the most important thing we do. Every Christmas and Easter, we give each family a gift of a book. The books are all specifically Christian, and one of the mums said, ‘I’d expect nothing less from a Christian group.’"
"My advice to anyone running or thinking of starting a families group is to ‘dream big’. Your ‘big’ may not be the same as someone else’s (in fact, sometimes, if you are just starting a group, for instance, your ‘big’ may look considerably smaller in comparison with someone else’s) but don’t be afraid to dream. God can do amazing things!"