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Too Many Children?

For the last 15 years my wife Vicki and I have been in or led a kid-friendly small group. I love groups that include children. When a group involves them, the children are blessed and are a blessing. Right now, for example, we have a 9-year old in our group that comes up with a new icebreaker every week. She puts more thought into it and is better at coming up with great questions than I am! If you use our church’s small group helps, you’ve probably been using some of her questions yourself because I end up putting them in our helps.

Why don’t most groups include children? Because it’s more work. You also need the right type of host home. And it takes thought as the group grows and the number, ages and mix of children changes. It takes effort, but it’s definitely worth it.

Our group and the number of children in the group has been growing. We include the children for the icebreaker and worship and then let the younger children go to the basement where they play, while the teens either stay in the meeting or go talk or do homework. A few weeks ago it got kind of bonkers in the basement.

What do you do when it seems like things are getting bonkers? (Besides sending some immediate supervision.) We have found the most helpful thing is to sit down with the kids and talk about what the guidelines should be and how to improve things. We let them come up with most of them. They’re actually very good at coming up with what the rules should be and if you involve them they own and understand the rules. We did that the following week.

Here’s some ideas they came up with.
* No playing with Nerf guns (I think this was a large part of the problem the week before!)
* Setting up different play stations so kids have various options (like a lego play station, for example)
* No going back to the basement after the kids have come up to have snacks with the parents
* No video games (a parent came up with that one)

We’re also at the point where we are involving the parents in supervising. Previously with the number and mix of kids, the teens’ presence was adequate to help the children.

I wanted to let you know that I think it’s possible to have too many children. Ten preteen children is the max. We are at that point now so we are actually having to tell people with kids that they can come to our group but their kids can’t. 🙁

So we hope to multiply our group soon.

The problem is that if you consistently get more than ten kids, you lose your host home! And if you lose your kid-friendly host home, you can no longer include kids at all! So we recommend that you limit the number of kids to ten or so. (When we lived in Texas and the children could play go outside all year round, this number was higher.)

Children are great, but in our experience it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. So let’s keep multiplying kid-friendly groups so that we have plenty for everyone who wants to be involved in this type of small group!

What are your questions, ideas and suggestions for having great kid-friendly small groups?

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2 Responses to Too Many Children?

  1. Pastor Travis December 3, 2009 at 3:19 am #

    I lead a group (and the Small Group ministry at my church) and have found a problem arises when there are more than 3 children under the age of 5.  Have you encountered a scenario where all of the children were pre-school age?  How did you deal with that?

  2. Jim Egli December 18, 2009 at 4:30 am #

    Hi, Travis. We’ve actually got four preschoolers in our group right now. It definitely takes more coordination with preschoolers. We have found in our current group that we can still include the preschoolers for the icebreaker and worship, but this isn’t always the case (not all preschoolers are the same!). Sometimes in previous groups we have hired a teenager to watch the preschoolers for the duration of the meeting. It takes more thought and planning to include children but we have found it well worth the effort.

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