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Small Group Dilemma…Childcare

A caveat: This is not a “dilemma” but a reality. My son (DUE ANY DAY!) is not a problem, he is just a part of the Shelton package. So if we want to participate in a small group, we gotta consider him just as much as we are considering ourselves. That said, childcare is often seen as a barrier to entry for many people to get into a small group. So leader, like it or not we have to be thinking about this because those we are wanting to connect to our small groups certainly are. There are 2 things we need to consider when approaching the childcare question: 1) The value of children in the small group community and 2) communicating that value through how we approach the childcare question.

1. Children ADD value to the small group experience
Too often children are viewed as a burden on the group. I have heard many stories where someone either left a small group or only went once because they felt their children were perceived to be a “difficulty” for the group (note the words felt and perceived, they imply that such may not have been the group’s intentions, but it was nonetheless what was communicated). The church has a unique opportunity that the culture we live in often tries to rob us of. We have the chance to build very authentic friendships with people in all stages of life. That means you, college student, could become close to a family of 5. That means you retired couple could become close to a group of young professionals. Our church gets to be multi-generational and with that opportunity comes God’s gift of children. Now, how do these children ADD to the small group experience? First remember the small group experience involves so much more than the 40 minute bible study you do once a week. It involves getting into people’s lives. And if the people in your group have children, I promise you will not get into their lives unless you get to know their kids as well as them. And guess what, PARENTING IS HARD! And the parents in your group are feeling that. You want your group to open up? To get more real with each other? Ask the parents in your group how you can pray for their children during your meeting time. They may not have done the assigned reading for that week, but they have plenty to talk about when it comes to their kids. Also, parenting viewed correctly is life-on-life discipleship. Parents are learning soooo much about spiritual growth as they watch their children grow physically. Non-parents in your group will benefit greatly from the life experience parents bring to the group. And, kids have a quirky way of bringing out character in people that otherwise would not show up in the group setting. Now, for the parents in the group, the small group experience is very valuable for their kids. Their kids get to observe their parents living out biblical community, and any parent will tell you their kids are certainly watching.

2. So what do you do about the kids?

The following are some ideas we have seen work here at the Summit. If you have other ideas you have had success with, post them in the comment section below.

· The rotation: I’ve done this one often. In the “rotation” members in the group take turns watching the children during the discussion and prayer portions of the meeting. At least 2 people should be with the kids for just plain smart reasons. If you have a lot of couples in the group, couples could rotate or you could rotate 2 guys and then 2 girls (this way the ½ of the couple who was in the discussion can fill in the ½ who was with the kids). The benefits of the rotation are that its free, and it gives your group members a chance to get to know everyone a little better. The drawback to this is that once you get over about 6 children, you should probably add a 3rd person for small kids. So, groups with multiple families will have a tough time using this option.

· Group Babysitter: For groups with several kids this may be a good option. In this model you still keep all of the kids together (so they get to know one another). Instead of rotating through group members though, the group collectively hires babysitter(s) to watch the kids. This one is good because the kids are still together and you keep people from using the excuse “we couldn’t find anyone to watch the kids.”

· Church reimbursement: This is a strategy we’ve recently tried implementing. For details click here. In this model the church puts a significant part of its budget towards providing childcare for small group members. While there is no way the church can cover all of everyone’s childcare expenses, hopefully it can help make hiring a babysitter a viable option for those that need it. This system works well for churches who have small groups spanning a large geographical area and could not possibly have a central hub for small group childcare. Because of this system we are excited to say that EVERY SummitLIFE group has childcare provided in some fashion. Pretty cool.

Ok, so you have to decide how to tackle the childcare question because it very well could come up. The above are just 3 ideas, but each is a solution that communicates a level of awareness and care for those who are bringing children into your small group community. Hey, do it for the children.

  1. mduclos
    September 16, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    At our church, we ask middle school or high school age students to come and watch the kids and give them some christ center activities to do with the kids during our bible study. we just all put in a donation for the kids to go toward their latest fundraiser…in the most recent case rasing money to attend Youth Encounter.

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