At our church, we talk a lot about creating a WOW experience every Sunday.
Each time the doors open, it brings a new opportunity for guests to experience God’s love and grace in a whole new way.
We believe that more than ever in our kids ministry.
It’s why we have welcome wagons that bring small children from their family vehicle to the front door. It’s why we have greeters to help make every child and family feel warmly welcome. It’s why we often have some type of snack or fun activity for kids to do in-between services. It’s why we have small group leaders for every age.
As a small group leader for two of our services, I get to spend an hour every week with about 30-40 kids in the gray room.
They don’t all love spending an hour of their lives with me every week, but my honest prayer is that they enjoy something. Church shouldn’t be a chore to check off your weekly to-do list, not even for a child.
Church should be fun. It should be a new and exciting experience every single week. More importantly, church should be a place they love.
Here’s my six (five with a bonus) tips for small group leaders to help create a place they love:
- Get to know your kids. Know the names of their teachers, pets, parents and best friends. Know their favorite color, sport, food and television show. Know their dreams, fears and some of their secrets. You do this by showing up and tuning in. Be present and listen to what your kids want to tell you.
- Help build friendship among your few. Get them talking to each other and get them to interact with different kids from week to week. When possible, provide opportunities for them to socialize amongst themselves.
- Don’t try to be everything to your kids. Being a small group leader is about being a little bit of a coach, teacher, parent and friend all rolled into one, but you are none of those things in its entirety. Don’t try to be. Just be their small group leader and help reinforce all of those other people when the opportunity presents itself. That said, do make sure to be real with your kids. They want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them.
- Give your few individual time as often as possible. And maximize that time every chance you get. If you knew mom just got married, ask them about how they feel about that. Ask them about their weeks and what they want to be when they grow up. Compliment them and let them know you are praying for them – or better yet, pray with them.
- Give them a purpose, or help them realize their purpose in the Kingdom of God. Find roles for your few each week to help them plug in and get connected to the idea that we are all necessary to carry out God’s work. Challenge them to apply what they learn in your small group to their lives the rest of the week.
- Have fun with your kids. They are kids. In their world, fun is their language. Find ways to make discovering Godly truth interactive and fun. At our church, we have a corporate worship service for Kindergarten – fourth grade, complete with a game, worship, a video message and more. In small groups, we use games, crafts and as many fun visuals as we can to help emphasize the big ideas within our curriculum. Fun is critical. Trust me.
Some of our small group leaders use treasure boxes as an incentive for kids to learn a memory verse or behave well in small group time. A few weeks ago, another devoted small group leader from the gray room opened up their treasure box for a first grade boy. The box was full of little trinkets and toys, but the boy found a broken Kids Volunteer name tag as his prize. The name tag was not supposed to be in the box, of course, but he insisted on taking it as his prize because he “loves this place.”
That’s the kind of experience I want every one of you to have. I know it isn’t easy. It takes time and patience. Here’s a hint – it is totally worth it.