BABIES are born with innate potential for language, for non-verbal communication, for movement and for worship. What we become proficient at generally reflects our earliest experiences. I speak English because that is the language that I was immersed in. Another child will become fluent in Tagalog if that is the language that surrounds him or her.
It is easy to be bilingual if both languages are spoken equally in the home. Jerome Berryman, developer of Godly Play, has argued that we need to teach children “Christian” alongside their native language. This need not involve formal teaching. Which of us received a lesson on how to sing “Happy birthday to you”? We learned it through experience and joining in.
This is why “children’s corners” in churches should be beautifully furnished with uplifting Christian books, toys and artefacts that inspire children, and those who accompany them, to worship and experience the love of God. Tired cast-off toys and secular books that relate the adventures of Peppa Pig are unlikely to lead children to discover their Creator.
All ages deserve our best endeavours, and Diddy Disciples is a first-rate programme of worship, prayer, and teaching materials designed particularly for babies, toddlers, and young children. This is the most comprehensive and creative resource that I have seen for this age-group. First developed in a London parish to meet the needs of the very youngest children on a Sunday morning, the material has been refined to create flexible sessions for use throughout the week.
Each session is based on a Bible story, and has ideas for gathering, saying sorry to God, for receiving the Word, and responding to it. More material is provided for each session than could be easily used; so there is plenty of choice and flexibility. The stories do not follow the lectionary, but are grouped into themes that last several weeks. There are lovely ideas to cover the main festivals.
The books are expensive for smaller churches to buy, and some may feel that nearly £30 is too much to spend on a resource that may not initially get much use. Also, the volumes are large and unwieldy to handle. Dividing the material between at least three volumes would have made them easier to use and cheaper as an experimental purchase.
A third quibble is that the introduction to the concept is included only in the first volume, which covers September-December. The introduction gives so much helpful background to the development of the ideas that less experienced leaders would really benefit from reading it before they launch in. Those buying volume two for immediate use in the spring will miss this information. There is, however, a helpful website, which gives more explanation.
Jesus urged us to become like children. Many adults will enjoy working with these stimulating materials as much as the children. Sharon Moughtin-Mumby demonstrates clearly how we can share worship with babies and toddlers. She, her team, and all the children who have helped to develop Diddy Disciples deserve our gratitude.
Rona Orme is a former Diocesan Children’s Missioner.
Diddy Disciples 1: September to December
Church Times Bookshop £27
Diddy Disciples 2: January to August
Church Times Bookshop £27