Throughout the month of April, I’m answering your reader questions…
Today’s question: Is it important to involve my children in a Sunday School or small group? Why or why not?
Children learn in many different ways through various sources, people and means. They are constantly being influenced and invested into as we try to teach them broad truths, deep doctrines and practical life-lessons. Many of these things are learned by children weekly in small groups.
As a child, some of the most memorable and biblical truth I remember learning was in my Sunday School class with Mrs. Schoch (more on that in a moment). I have fond memories of what I learned in that small group setting every Sunday morning.
Small groups can be any of the following: Sunday School, or age/gender specific groups that meet separately from a large group setting. Sometimes a small group may break away for a short time from the large group setting, and other times, it may be an entirely separate class from start to finish.
Every children’s ministry may have some variations to their small group structure; however, small groups most often have a few important goals and benefits in common that can help you understand their importance for your child.
1. Small groups thrive off of the idea that “circles are better than rows.”
Generally speaking, kids learn more in an environment where they are allowed to discuss truth than in an environment where they are exclusively told the truth.
This mentality has its pros and cons. The pros are that yes, there is a huge value to discussion among kids to help them better understand and ultimately own what they believe. Because rarely will children learn to possess their faith for life by just sitting in a class hearing truth.
The con (in my opinion) takes place when any form of classroom/lecture style teaching becomes completely absent from ministry. In other words, children still need to be taught the truth in addition to being led to personally own that truth.
As our children are taught the Bible stories and the biblical truths, this can then become a great springboard for discussion and application. This is where small groups come into the picture, and this is why both large group and small group settings are important in any children’s ministry.
It’s important to strike a healthy balance between what is taught and what is caught. A simple way to do that is to give kids truth by teaching them in ‘rows’ (large group), then allow them to own that truth by separating them into ‘circles’ (small groups) to dive deeper.
2. Small groups allow kids to own their own faith in a way that a large group setting is not nearly as conducive for.
I Corinthians 8:1 reminds us that “knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”
This verse highlights the important life principle that it doesn’t matter how much you know until it begins to show.
Small group discussion allows for thought-provoking questions to be asked and discussed, truth to be applied to personal and specific situations, and knowledge to become ‘love in action.’
Sadly it is very possible for kids to know all the right answers, and be filled with biblical knowledge because it is what they have been taught, but for very little of that knowledge to affect the way they daily live out their lives and make decisions.
This is where small group ministry if done right, can help kids to truly grow in both their faith and their ability to practice it. This happens when we allow our kids to experience a hands-on faith outside the box of recited answers and memorized truth.
Kids instinctively desire to navigate the messy middle of being allowed to discuss and even question the ins and outs of truths that they’ve been taught. And it is important that we let them. Those who do small groups understand that giving kids an opportunity to ask questions and have a certain level of control in the learning process is healthy for everyone.
Smart leaders don’t see this as a threat, they see this as an opportunity to help their students thrive.
3. Small groups foster better and closer relationships between kids and spiritual leaders.
Jesus ministered to the masses, but he invested the majority of His time into the 12, and even more time into three of those 12. The Point: Close Relationships Matter.
One of the benefits of having children as a part of a small group or Sunday School class is the bond that they are able to develop with other kids, and especially spiritual leaders who are investing in their life on a personal level weekly and intentionally.
I mentioned my Sunday School teacher earlier, Mrs. Schoch. She took the time to invest into each of the kids in her class, and she put her heart into what she taught. I can still visualize many of the Bible stories I learned as a kid through flannelgraph. Lol. But there was one thing I remember most about Mrs. Schoch—she loved us, and we knew it.
Small group leaders have the potential to become some of a child’s best examples, mentors and leaders to walk them through their current stage of life growth. This is like gold for a parent, to have someone who is a second voice speaking into their child’s life on a personal level, getting to know them, praying for them, and speaking truth and value into their heart and life on a weekly basis.
Small groups allow for teachers and leaders to focus more attention on the specific needs of every child in their group.
In the church world, more than half of ‘Christian’ young people leave the church when they leave the house. This is terribly concerning. But one of the greatest ways that I have seen over the years to retain kids as they age is that they have to get connected. Relationships are stronger than just about anything else.
If kids get connected and build solid life-long relationships when they are at church, they are much more likely to stick around for the long haul. If they fail to truly connect and belong, or have not learned to personally possess the truth they have been taught, they are much less likely to stick around as they get older.
Small groups, if done right, have a lot of benefits for helping children to develop into fully devoted followers of Jesus. Within the last few months, our church launched a new preteen small-group ministry, and we have seen each of these benefits firsthand. Small groups have the potential to make a big difference, meeting kids where they are by providing what they need in the way they need it.
So to answer the question, “Is it important to involve children in a Sunday School or small group?” the answer is an emphatic Yes! And these are a few of the reasons why. So…are your kids involved in a small group?
This article originally appeared here.