In 2006 I was asked to do something that I just knew would end my career as a small group pastor at LifeChurch.tv. My senior pastor’s wife started a women’s ministry that had been meeting on campus for eight years, and I was asked to kill it and move all the women involved into off-campus small groups. As a man, I was certain that I was toast!
Fortunately, God was gracious and my senior pastor’s wife was on board with the change. She helped lead the charge, and in the first semester of off-campus women’s groups we saw the number of women’s ministry participants double! It was a huge success, but it came only after much preparation.
One of my favorite stories from that change in women’s ministry strategy is the story of my wife, Stacey. Stacey started a women’s group and had a blast, so I’ve asked her to co-write this article and share her insights. This article is about the biggest challenge facing women’s small group: division. Satan loves to destroy the unity of women’s small groups and he does it in primarily two areas: childcare and cliques.
Knowing what to do with the kids can be a challenge for ladies groups because many of them will be made up of stay-at-home-moms and/or single moms. It’s critical for groups to decide up front how they will handle childcare. There’s a great article called “The Childcare Checklist” at SmallGroups.com that will help your group navigate the childcare conversation. In addition, below are some ideas we used at LifeChurch.tv that you can discuss with your group.
- Utilize local “Mother’s Day Out” programs. Other churches in your town may offer Mother’s Day Out Programs where ladies can drop off their children for a few hours. Check around your area to see if any MDO programs are available.
- Meet outside the home. Get together at local coffee shops, bookstores or the park after the kids are in school.
- Work around naptime. Buy some nap mats, meet at naptime and have the kids all take their naps together in another room. (This works in daycare centers; other children are doing it and so will yours if that is what is expected of them.)
- Coordinate home-schoolers’ help. Arrange for a home schooled teenager to come to the host home to watch the children in another room.
- Contact local colleges. Local colleges have information on students interested in childcare.
- Drop in/hourly play childcare center. See if there are any childcare centers in your area that allow parents to drop off their children on an hourly basis.
- Use two homes. Some groups will drop their kids off at one group member’s house with a sitter or volunteer from the group and then have the group gathering at another home a few blocks away.
- Bring them with you! This is a wonderful way for children to see their moms living their faith. Here are some ideas for having kids present with your women’s group.
- Have a signup sheet so that group members can take turns watching the kids during your Group.
- Encourage children to participate in a short time together of singing and a scriptural thought or question directed specifically to them, then taking their prayer requests and praying with them before dismissing them to play or other activity (any or all of the above).
- Designated play area; designated toys and centers.
- Tape butcher paper all over a dining or other table, put markers and coloring crayons on table. Don’t use permanent markers or markers that bleed.
- Have the kids bring inexpensive seeds and miniature clay pots, and plant their seeds and discuss how we plant seeds in the lives of others, and God helps them to grow. Then they can transplant their seeds at home.
- Purchase inexpensive photo albums from the $1 store and let them bring pics from home and do family albums. Talk about how God made our families, etc. all his children (Psalm 68:6).
- Treasure box for rewards for positive behavior throughout the night (morning) and/or at the end of the study, kids can pick something out of it.
These are simply ideas, only limited by your own imaginations. So be creative and don’t allow the beautiful children God has blessed you with to be used as an excuse for ladies not to meet together to do small groups. Yes, it can be a challenge, but don’t let it be an obstacle. Talk to other ladies’ group leaders and share ideas. Tell others about the great things that you have done with the kids in your group. Please, please don’t keep it a secret. Share it with others so they can benefit.
One of Satan’s favorite methods for causing division in a small group is disagreement over the question of childcare. Thus one of the most important things for your group to come to a clear and collaborative understanding about is childcare. Not addressing childcare up front guarantees conflict and misunderstanding later. As such, each ladies’ group should determine what works best for them by looking over this Childcare Checklist and the suggestions above together.