A Visit to Daniel’s Den
Katie shares the impact that two of the Daniel’s Den parent-and-toddler groups in churches have had on families in the local communities.
When I was a children’s pastor, one of my favourite times each week was running our baby and toddler group. It was a room filled with toddlers, zooming their little cars round the garage, handing out plastic food feasts, babies knocking down cup towers and laughing as animals popped out of their hiding places, with parents and carers enjoying a coffee with their friends. It was a wonderful cacophony of noise and chaos! These days, I have the joy of connecting with and supporting baby and toddler groups across the Diocese of London.
About Daniel’s Den
Recently, I spent some time visiting a couple of groups in North Wembley and Stonebridge. Daniel’s Den is a 25-year-old network of local Christian parent-and-toddler groups in the Brent area. They currently run 9 groups, with a 10th starting soon, hosted in churches and community spaces across the area. The team at Daniel’s Den provide the session structure, craft and support for all the groups, and then they are led by a mix of people from the churches and the community. Through the groups they’re connecting with around 650 under-5’s on a regular basis.
On my visit I got to spend time at St Michael and All Angels, Stonebridge and St Cuthbert’s, North Wembley. It can be easy to think that a toddler group can only work in a big church hall, but this visit showed me that doing it in the nave of a church also works well. At St Michaels and All Angels, the children and carers had great space to play with toys and do the craft, then the aisle made great roads to zoom around on the sit on toys.
The impact on families
At one group I heard a story from a mum about how she had heard about the group during lockdown and joined them when they were online. When the face-to-face group opened again, her daughter came in full of confidence. I found it amazing that even though this 2-year-old had never been to the physical space before, she felt confident and safe, because the other people there were familiar and the ethos created echoed the welcome and fun of the online group.
At the other group, there was a dad who had recently moved to the community and heard about the group form social media. It was his first time there with his daughter and they both loved it. He told about the warm welcome and how everyone, not just the team, was so kind. While there, he heard about the dads’ group that Daniel’s Den run once a month and he planned to join the next one.
It was clear from everyone that I met how important the Daniel’s Den spaces are. The safe space for children to play and learn. The warm cup of tea and community for the parents and carers. The encouragement and support from the team, all contributed to a space that was critical for so many families.
Start or flag your toddler group
The work of toddler groups is so powerful in how they can help churches connect with young families in their communities. If your church doesn’t currently run a toddler group and would be interested in starting one, get in touch – we’d love to support you as you think about what it could look like in your setting. If you already run one and haven’t yet marked it on the London Network for Parent and Toddler Groups map then make sure you do! We’d love to be able to see where toddler groups are happening and celebrate all that is happening.
Contact the children’s ministry support team at email@example.com, or find out more about the support you can access on our webpage.
Katie is the Children’s Ministry Support worker and Apprenticeship Scheme Coordinator for the Diocese of London. She loves connecting with people across London and helping the diocese think more about how we can best support children and families ministry across the diocese, working with the children and youth team to support churches.
Read more from Katie O'Conor