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Think Small, Score Big! Small Groups for Kids

Earn the right to speak into your kids’ lives by developing deep relationships with them that’ll strengthen their faith…

If you look back over your childhood, you can probably remember one adult who really took an interest in you — who made you feel special. Maybe it was a Sunday school teacher, a little league coach, or an elementary school teacher. For me it was a close family friend. She always remembered my birthday. She made it a point to include me in conversations, and she made me feel as though my thoughts and opinions were important. She spoke into my life.

Developing relationships with kids earns you the right to speak into their lives — just as my close family friend did for me. One of the most effective ways to develop relationships with kids in the church is through a small group ministry — a fairly recent trend in children’s ministry.

Before You Begin

The building blocks for a small group ministry for children aren’t much different from those for adults, according to Mikal Keefer, editor of FW Friends, Group Publishing’s new small-group-focused midweek program. Kids — like adults — thrive when they’re known and loved and feel that people are interested in them.

Here are six steps to take before you start small groups for your children’s ministry.

1) KEEP SMALL GROUPS SMALL. A ratio of 5 children to 1 leader has proven to work well. If you want to use your small groups as an outreach tool, you want kids to be able to bring their friends. You don’t want your group size to already be at the maximum level of what a leader can reasonably handle.

2) DETERMINE GROUP TYPES. Decide what type of group best suits your children’s needs. You may choose mixed-ages, same-age, gender-based, or mixed-gender groups. While some leaders feel that same-sex groups cut down on distractions and the competition associated with genders trying to impress each other, other leaders feel that building friendships and developing understanding toward others should cross all lines of gender and age.

3) CLARIFY THE PURPOSE OF YOUR SMALL GROUP MINISTRY. Make your purpose meaningful to kids. While developing FW Friends, Mikal discovered that parents want a small group midweek program that’s focused first on Bible learning, then on relationships, and then on fun. For kids the focus is primarily fun and friends.

“I’d never tell kids that they’re coming to learn God’s Word and hide it in their hearts,” says Mikal. “Those are terms we use as adults. If it’s an effective small group, they’ll get that when they come. You need to be careful how you define a small group’s purpose because kids can vote with their feet.” They can simply choose not to come.

It’s in the context of meaningful relationships that authentic life-change happens. And that’s where Christian growth and faith development flourish.

James Buchanan is a children’s minister at Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona, who has transitioned a large and small ministry into a small group model. James explains the purpose of small groups in his ministry. “A common misconception of small groups is that you’re giving up strong Bible teaching for relationships,” he says. “The truth is that both go hand in hand. We still teach God’s Word through a large group setting, then use small groups to emphasize relationships, Scripture memory, prayer, and relevant application of God’s Word.”