Minister's coffee and croissants boost congregation

MOST churches might be suffering from falling numbers, but one city minister has succeeded in boosting the number of young families in her congregation - by introducing a special 20-minute service and handing out coffee and croissants when it's over.

The Rev Moira McDonald launched the "Wee Service" at Corstorphine Old Parish Church after realising the traditional Sunday morning worship did not fit with the tastes and timetables of parents and their young children.

The 9.40am session of songs and stories, plus vital refreshments, has gone from a standing start to around 40 children under four.

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Rev McDonald said: "Like many churches, we found our traditional way of doing things was getting a bit old-fashioned. People's Sunday mornings are no longer empty of commitments - mum and dad are both working, granny lives a bit further away, and there's kids' football and rugby.

"We knew a lot of young families who had brought their children to be baptised and we wanted to find a way of encouraging them to become part of the church, but the traditional 10.30am service didn't fit in with their timetable.

"I e-mailed them and said what if we had a wee service for just 20 minutes with a couple of songs and a story and a cup of coffee and croissants afterwards, how did that sound? They all said it sounded great.

"We chose 9.40am because it's a quirky time - if you say 9.30am it sounds a bit dull."

• Would a 20-minute service, coffee and croissants entice you to go to church? Vote here

Rev McDonald added: "We started with five or six families, then they told their friends and we were able to tell people coming to get their children baptised. Now we have about 40 children and their parents.

"They're not all there every week, but we usually have 20-25 children and their parents. We sit together in a semi-circle, sing some songs, I'll tell a story using puppets or a book and we have craft or games, then the coffee and croissants.

"And if they want to they can come in for the first part of the 10.30am service."

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She said a surprising number of dads attended the Wee Service. "Traditionally young men are not churchgoers and you might expect it to be the mum who brings the kids along, so it's interesting to see how many dads come along.

"I think the mums and dads get as much enjoyment out of it as the children. They are the ones elbowing everyone out of the way to get to the scissors and crayons and it's the kids who love the croissants.

"The fellowship is very important. When they are talking afterwards, they discover they have the same kinds of problems and concerns.

"It's also good for the health of the church because it says it's not just the 10.30am service."