I remember walking into my first college lecture hall, not that is was all that special or different – there were rows and rows of seats facing a podium. The students would pile in and sit motionlessly for two hours as the professor pontificated. There were no questions, conversations, or interactions. I suddenly missed my small high school classrooms where the teacher would notice if you were chewing gum, where someone actually cared if you finished your homework, where someone knew your name. Sure, I learned things in both settings, however the delivery system was different. For me, it was the lessons learned through engaging with one another that stuck with me long after the tests were taken. Maybe that’s why I am such a proponent of small groups.
I believe local church small groups change lives when they merge together the biblical narrative and relationship building. In small groups we can engage in conversation and wrestle through questions and develop community. While you can learn while studying on your own, and through sermons, small groups give you the opportunity to connect your story to the lessons.
In many of our churches we have cultivated a wonderful network of small groups for adults, and maybe even teens. But have you tried small groups for children yet? Both Small Groups and Sunday School are a way for children to learn and grow in their faith. However, the delivery system is different.
The first difference is that Small Groups often do not take place on Sunday. Having the children engage in small groups at a different time allows families to worship together. Offering small groups for children at the same time as Adult Small Groups allows for the whole family to deepen their faith at the same time. Often children become so attached to their small group they are the ones that keep the family attending regularly.
Small groups for children do not need to be complicated or expensive. It often is as simple as a few “ice breaker” questions to start off, a Bible story, some life application and a simple activity to reinforce the message and prayer. We offer children’s sermons for the Miracle’s Everywhere Campaign; these can easily be adapted into small group lessons.
Our children often have rigorous schedules; the different of learning style of small groups can be a welcome change from school. The setting for small groups is often more casual and conversational. Children are encouraged to share what they think and how they feel. The leaders also have the venue to give their input, offer prayer and invest in the faith of a child in a safe environment. Research has shown that it is the relationships that keep people connected to churches and not the information or programs. How might you adapt your children’s ministry programs to build relationships?
We are offering a bi-monthly Zoom Call to support Children’s Ministry leaders. Children’s Ministry Connections feature children’s ministry leaders from across GNJ. We had a lively call in August around fall planning. This month, Rev. Brenda Ehlers will be sharing Advent and Christmas ideas for children’s ministry on Oct. 10 at 7:00 p.m. Rev. Ehlers is Associate Pastor for Children, Youth and Education Ministries at Morrow Church in Maplewood. She has served in children’s ministry since 2003.
Brenda believes ministry with children, youth and their families requires a brave heart. Brave, because you have to be excited about change. There is no guarantee that what you did so successfully last year will work again. But, the one thing that has always been successful for faith formation is deep, caring relationships between leaders and students. My work as faith formation leader is to provide the resources and guidance to encourage and nurture these relationships. It keeps me up and night, it keeps me watching silly Youtube videos, it keeps me covered in flour during wild games, and it keeps me on my knees, thankful and humble.
We hope you join us. Click here to register.
It is our vision that all across Greater New Jersey people will gather to share life and faith in small groups. Please feel free to contact me, Rev Gina Yeske, Director of Small Groups, firstname.lastname@example.org.