When my oldest boys entered the grade school environments at our church, my husband went with them, volunteering to lead a small group. The boys loved it and always chose to be in his group. John loved it too, getting a great opportunity to know the boy’s friends and build strong relationships with them that still exist to this day (Our oldest is 18 now!).
Once they both graduated to student ministry, John realized serving in grade school was a cup filler for him and decided to stay on. Interestingly enough though, his table migrated to an all-girls group pretty quick. As parents of all boys at that time, the idea of trying to engage a group of girls in conversation was intimidating for him. John knew what boys were like. He used to be one! He’d spent years honing his skill at asking questions in such a way that it led the boys to really engage in thought provoking discussion, as much so as you could expect from a group of 8-year-olds anyway. Girls… He wasn’t sure. But after his first Sunday, he was stoked. Turns out girls like to talk. Even more than the boys (Who knew, right?).
“Where I would ask a question in three different ways to get the boys engaged and on track, I just drop one on the girls and sit back as they lean in and break that thing apart!”
Let’s be honest. Elementary kids like to talk. If you give them enough time and ask the right questions they’re going to tell you some amazing things. Perhaps some will with fewer questions than others… 😉
The previous post helped establish the critical nature of the elementary age. Where the foundation of faith is established in the early education phase of birth-preschool the development of that faith becomes pivotal during the elementary phase. So, what should an elementary small group look like?
Relationship is the Priority
The best place for faith to grow and develop is in the context of a relationship within a small group of friends and a consistent leader. If you know your kids better after small group, count that as a win! Sometimes we walk into a small group time with an agenda, or even just good intentions of following the lesson plan. Or maybe there’s just something you’ve been dying to tell them. A thousand rabbit trails, endless giggles, and a few fart jokes later, you may leave feeling side tracked and frustrated. But remember, relationships take time and should be the first priority. It’s the relationship that is the glue that binds a biblical truth to the heart of a kid. If you didn’t connect this week the way you wanted to, there’s always next week. Prioritize the relationship and the message will come out over time.
Talk Less & Listen More
Ask lots of questions. Good questions. Questions that get kids talking. Questions that don’t have right or wrong answers. Questions that get kids thinking about things they haven’t ever thought about. Challenge why they believe what they believe. Challenge their views. Learn to ask leading questions that help a kid get to the answer on their own. The small group leader is there to coach and guide as they learn and discover, and there’s no better way than by asking great questions that engage kids in the discovery process!
Know Where You’re Headed
There’s always a final destination. There’s something we want them to know. Something to understand. You could host your small group in 3 minutes and tell them, but it wouldn’t mean anything. They wouldn’t remember. That’s why we do an application activity, why we ask strange questions and why we play out silly scenarios. If we take kids on an interactive journey that ends with understanding, then they’re likely to never forget.
“It is more important to go slow and gain the lessons you need along the journey then to rush the process and arrive at your destination empty.” –Germany Kent
When you prioritize the relationship first, ask compelling questions with the end in mind and add a few games to the mix, you’ve got the perfect dynamic for a group time that’s fun. And fun over time takes relationships deeper, which will be the glue that connects each kid to the biblical truth you’re teaching in a meaningful, life-changing way!
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