New research has revealed that almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of non-Christian parents with children under the age of five have taken their children to a church-based activity in the past year, creating opportunities for congregations to deepen relationships with these families and be an effective witness of the Christian faith.

The Talking Toddlers report, which surveyed 1,182 parents, goes on to show that of the 62 per cent of parents, more than half (55 per cent) had said they explored their own beliefs as a result of taking their young children along to a church activity, further highlighting the potential for evangelism and mission among families with young children that are on the fringes of local churches.

These findings have been welcomed by the Evangelical Alliance, HOPE Together and the Church of England, who jointly commissioned the research. Rachael Heffer, head of mission at the Evangelical Alliance, commented, There’s a great missional opportunity to minister to non-Christians who are already connected to our churches through toddler groups, Messy Churches and other activities targeted at young children.” 

The research, which was released on Monday, 18 May, also found that only a quarter of all parents of children aged 0 – 4 who completed the survey (‘fringe parents’, active Christian parents’, and unreached parents’), have no connection with a church, but more than a third (35 per cent) of this group would welcome an invite to a church-based activity for them and their children.

Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, assistant director of HOPE Together, said the results of the survey, which was conducted by Savanta ComRes, shows that the church has the most extraordinary reach and a huge opportunity to help a generation begin in faith if they start with the under-fives and their parents,” and urged churches to act now to reach these families who are open and questioning.

Heffer, echoing Jordan-Wolf’s encouragement to local churches to seize this opportunity to minister to families who are already in touch with them, said, Let’s not wait until our churches gather again en masse after the coronavirus lockdown. These fringe parents and their children present a great missional opportunity and need our contact now. 

They don’t require polished interaction. During this period of lockdown, both parents and under-fives want to see and hear the people that they know, love and miss. What a great opportunity to connect with those warm’ fringe parents by means of regular Zoom calls sharing experiences, songs, Bible stories and more.”

Heffer added that the research offers a challenge and an opportunity for church leaders to prioritise mission and ministry amongst the very young and their parents, and to keep the Christian distinctiveness high within these groups that are targeted at parents and their young children.

A webinar expanding on the Talking Toddlers report will take place at 10am on 26 June. To take part, please complete an online form.

These fringe parents and their children present a great missional opportunity and need our contact now.