Say what? Early Childhood small groups? Aren’t you supposed to start this once kids get into elementary? That’s been the given assumption. Some churches are starting to break this mold and give this a try. We’re going to start this really soon and we are very excited. So, please keep in mind that everything I write below this paragraph is theory and a vision of what could be.
My staff came back from Orange with all kinds of ideas. On of the ideas my Early Childhood director had concerned alignment of terminology. Basically this is where churches use the same vernacular for positions and programs throughout every ministry. It makes perfect sense. In the Early Childhood area we have three main positions. Lead teacher, room leader and caregiver. The lead teacher travels from room to room and the room leader is in charge of the room. Caregivers are simply caregivers.
So, the thought was that we call our room leaders small group leaders. This helps align terminology. It helps when recruiting as people have a better idea of what a smll gorup leader is than a room leader. Then we started to brainstorm and think outside the bun. One of Gateway’s core strategies is to connect people in small groups. We believe that life change happens best in the context of personal relationships. Although we do have kids in early childhood who have great relationships with their caregivers and room leaders, but it isn’t expressly intentional. It just happens. However, if this is a value of our church, what if we made relational development intentional in early childhood? What if rather than just have the name “small group leader” in early childhood, we actually changed the job description so that it really was a small group leader?
So, it isn’t going to necessarily look like small groups in elementary or adults, but it will be a small group. We’d follow the same strategy we are with elementary. Althouh we may have 15-20 kids in a room, we’ll run reports to see who the regularaly attending kids in that room are. Those kids would be in the small group leader’s small group. Now, that leader wouldn’t gather his/her kids in a small huddle each Sunday (unless they are in one of the 4-kindergarten rooms where they actually do that). However, this small group leader would intentionally plan to have specific one on one time with the 8-10 kids who are in their small group. The other caregivers are there to help take care of the rest of the kids, but the small group leader has a laser focus. Outside of Sunday, this leader would call the families or kids and send postcards. A relationship would be developed. Even though all the kids in this small group wouldn’t necessarily experience a “group-like” experience, they would each have a shared/personal experience with their leader.
The beauty of this plan is that we can essentially start small groups with our babies. That’s right, a four moth old can be in a small group. All they have to do is come on a semi-regular basis and they’ll be assigned to that room’s small group leader.
So, what do you think? Do you think it will work? In about six months, we should be able to let you know. I’d appreciate any ideas you might have.
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