A PLAYGROUP in a church that had little recent experience of children is flourishing — after a priest set up a Facebook page to win support.
An assistant curate at Christ Church with St Philip, Eastbourne, the Revd Adam Ransom, suggested setting up a parent-and-toddler group in response to a diocesan initiative for each church to come up with one new outreach idea. There were few young families in the congregation.
Older members of the congregation were keen to support the project, and he found a local charity that would supply him with a "seedcorn" grant if he could demonstrate that the group was viable.
So, after praying about it, Fr Ransom turned to Facebook, and set up a group page to see if there was any demand. "By the end of the first day, 30 people had joined the group, and by the end of the week we had 100 signed up," he said.
"At our first session, 16 children and carers came. None of them are churchgoers. There have been so many funding cuts to children’s services that there aren’t many other groups for people to go to, and we were determined ours should be free, and we give them refreshments provided by members of the congregation.
"Some of the older people in the congregation really jumped at the chance to come along and help.
"As I was preparing a family for baptism, I told them about the group, and the mother brought her child before the baptism. It helps people who don’t go to church feel comfortable in the church environment. It helps say to them, ‘This is your church as well.’"
Now five weeks in, the group is still growing. Fr Ransom said that it showed the good use that social media could be put to by churches. "It shows social media is very important tool for churches, helping us to reach out to our local community."