Before kids, life was simpler, but it was a lot less fun. After kids, things get crazy. Everything takes more time, and you wonder what you did before the little ones were around. Going places with your kids becomes an adventure. You pack up everything you’ll need and some things you won’t. You make sure everyone’s eaten and used the restroom, even though you know they’ll be hungry and have to go again when you get there. So why would you include kids in small groups?
Having kids and doing ministry is similar in that it is exhausting and rewarding. I had a friend who began leading a church right after he and his wife welcomed their 4th child into the world. Their worship leader also had 4 kids, the children’s pastor had 3, the creative arts leader had 3, and one of their elders had another 4. That’s 18 if you’re counting. These families were at everything, and so were their kids. They brought the party with them.
Naturally, they attracted many families with young kids, but they reached many people who didn’t have kids. They found ways to integrate the youth into their church’s small group life, had lots of fun, and grew closer to Jesus, as well as each other.
They did 4 things well.
1) Do kid friendly things. They knew their meetings were going to be kid central. They usually ate together and made sure to always plan something for the kids. They also planned their meetings so everyone could be home by bedtime.
2) Meet at kid friendly places. They met outside, at fast food or casual restaurants, and in bigger homes so that the kids could play in one area and the adults could talk in another. One of the families built a massive swing set in their yard, and another bought a bounce house.
3) Take turns watching the kids. Sometimes, the moms would talk while the dads kept the kids in sight, and other days, they’d switch. They shared the load and didn’t anoint or appoint anyone to the office of “lead babysitter.” One season, they even hired a certified babysitter.
4) Find a rhythm that works. Their meeting times changed as time when on, but one small group season, they followed this schedule and found it fruitful.
– Week One—Everyone meets and eats
– Week Two—Dads meet, moms stay home
– Week Three—Everyone meets and eats
– Week Four—Moms meet, dads stay home.
– Week Five—Meet at a park or fast-food place with a good indoor playground
If you are planning on including kids in your small group activities, here’s a few things you have to remember.
1) Be ok with noise. Kids make lots of noise. Don’t stress out about it. People don’t mind as much as you think they do.
2) Empty-nesters enjoy the vibrant environment. They don’t get to hold babies often. Even if they have grand-kids of their own, they love the opportunity to love on some little ones.
3) Young adults like to play with kids. They may not want to do it all the time, but they will in moderation.
4) Many lessons are caught easier than they are taught. Parents learn from each other. It’s nice to have relationships with people in the same life-stage, and it’s good to have access to some people who’ve made it to the next alive.
5) Worship together. This works well if most children are older than 3, but babies add a positive note to the atmosphere. This is a great time for new moms and dads to “let” someone in the group take a turn holding the baby. Just remember to be ok with noise.
How do you include kids and youth in your church community and worship?