Small Groups are pretty integrated into the ministry world today. Most curriculums include small group pieces. If you’re starting in kidmin today, you really don’t know anything different. However, I forget that there are literally thousands of children’s ministry leaders that don’t know a ministry world without small groups. Most of the staff I lead are under the age of 30. Sometimes I’ll be talking about an 80’s or 90’s pop culture reference and I’ll stop myself and ask, “do you know what I’m talking about?” They weren’t there, so I can’t assume that they know. The same is true of small groups for kids.
Honestly, they’re still pretty new. For those of you who haven’t heard this story, let me tell you how group evolved. At least, I’ll give you my perspective.
I grew up in the church of the 80’s and 90’s. Almost every church had Sunday School classes. Sunday School has been around for a really long time. A large percentage of the church attended Sunday School first and then they went to church. In most churches, kids came with their parents to the worship service. I have many memories coloring offering envelopes under a pew. Many of these churches would actually include a 5-minute children’s sermon where all the kids would come to the front of the church and the pastor or a children’s ministry leader would tell/read a story for the kids. It was connected to what the pastor was teaching, so that was pretty cool. That was children’s ministry/family ministry for most of the 20th century.
In the 70’s, things really started to shift. Many Charismatic/Non-Denominational churches were creating Kid’s Church/Children’s Church Programs. In some of these churches, kids would go to Sunday School and then to Kid’s Church. Other churches were building a small group model for adults, so Sunday School wasn’t even offered. In these churches, kids would just go to their age-appropriate service for an hour. This was pretty revolutionary and it was in the 70’s and 80’s that the role of the Children’s Pastor was actually becoming a real thing. However, groups didn’t happen in children’s church. Curriculum (and there weren’t many options to choose from) didn’t typically offer anything for groups. It was an hour or more of programming. Worship. Skits. Teaching. Puppets. Games. That was it.
Honestly, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that curriculum began providing small group curriculum. I don’t think I actually saw small group activities/questions until 2005 or so. The age of small groups for kids is really only about 10 years old. However, this is where everything changed for kidmin. Fifteen years ago, most of my elementary volunteers would have been “large group volunteers.” I’d probably have a handful of adults doing crowd control and bathroom breaks, but these were not critical volunteers. It was a pretty passive role that nearly anyone could do. Today is a totally different story. Small Group leaders make up 60-70% of my elementary volunteers. I have staff dedicated to recruiting, developing and equipping this army of volunteers. They’re amazingly active roles and probably the most critical volunteers in our ministry. A lot has changed in a decade.
That’s how we got here, in case you didn’t know. Tomorrow I’ll share my 10-year story with small groups. There was a specific moment where I saw small groups as the answer to a problem I had been struggling with. I had no idea that small groups would quickly become the answer to almost every ministry problem.
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