Nexus Research in Church Toddler Groups

The Faith in the Nexus: the spiritual flourishing of very young children

Background Information

This research project has emerged from previous NICER research projects looking at the spiritual development of secondary-age students and the spiritual nurture of primary school pupils in the Nexus.

What is our aim?

The study will investigate Church Toddler Groups as a centre of connections between home, toddler group and church. It is an opportunity for Early Years studies to gift the church an understanding of the capacities and capabilities of very young children. It is also an opportunity for the church to gift Early Years practice an understanding of the importance of spiritual flourishing of the very young child.

What do we want to know?

  1. What does spiritual flourishing look like among very young children?
  2. How do Church Toddler Groups support spiritual flourishing?

What do we mean by spiritual flourishing?

Spiritual flourishing is about living life to the full (John 10:10).
It is seen in the nurturing of the right relationships with self, others, creation, and God.

Why does this research matter?

Paying attention to the spiritual flourishing of all young children is critical for their future well-being. The spiritual flourishing of very young children is a neglected area in research, policy and practice in the UK. There is a particular need to address this neglect as we find our way through the lasting impact of the pandemic on the well-being of young children.

How are we going to do this research?

The initial phase of this study will investigate the most effective methods of researching the spiritual flourishing of young children in a church toddler group. Two researchers will visit each toddler group for four consecutive sessions in the autumn of 2022.The research team will undertake a detailed multi-method study; this will involve observing the children's engagement, holding informal conversations with parents, volunteers, and leaders. The findings will illuminate how church toddler groups nurture the spiritual flourishing of young children.

Paying Attention to the Spiritual Flourishing of Young Children in Church Toddler Groups: A Scoping Study Evaluating the Feasibility of a Research Study in This Context

by Ann Casson, Mary Woolley, Ann Pittaway, Tansy Watts, Nicola Kemp, Robert A. Bowie, Katie Clemmey & Rosanne Aantjes 
An Open Access article available at