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On paper, it looked like such a good idea. Your small group was made up of a collection of families, each ready to commit to spending time together sharing and encouraging one another. You looked forward to your first meeting only to discover, when that meeting actually began, the adults were outnumbered by children over 2-to-1. What began as a time of encouragement and lifting one another up ended as a time of maintaining sanity, and quite frankly, you are not sure you even did that well.

One of the most often asked question from small group leaders is “What do we do with the children?” In other words, how do we manage to create a sharing, encouraging environment in the midst of the activity and busy-ness that is sometimes life with young (and old) children?

For those of us participating in 1 Groups, this dilemma is accentuated, because now we are not only discovering how to manage a group with children, we are actually, as part of our 1 Vision, encouraging groups to form with intergenerational relationships in mind.

Let me give some suggestions as to how you might address this situation.

First, let me remind you that only you think your children are the only ones who are being rowdy. It has been my experience that those who are most concerned about the behavior of a certain set of children are usually, and only, the parents of said children. Everyone else is not concerned or perhaps even notices what is going on, just the parents. Often times, no one notices because there is really nothing to be noticed—the kids are acting within a normal range of behaviors. So, give yourself permission to relax a little about the children—especially yours.

Second, do not discount the power of another adult’s ability to hold your child’s attention. In a room full of children being active, as they are oft to do, perhaps an older individual asking your child to sit next to him or her and quietly reading or looking at a picture book together can be surprisingly effective. Just the fact that it is not mom or dad seems to catch the interest of the child.

Third, redefine what you consider a “quality small group meeting.” If your assumption is that you and several other adults will sit down to an in-depth discussion about the Scripture for the week with 15 children in the house, you are probably going to be disappointed. But, if you alter your perception so as to value the interaction your children have with other adults and older children in the group, you avoid the temptation of defining success only by how “in-depth” you got. Remember that a part of the 1 Vision is to develop intergenerational relationships, not to answer all seven questions in the study guide.

Finally, know when it is time to punt. My bias is that we exclude children from our times together more than we should so I will always try to err toward the side of including them with us in our meeting times. However, there are times when it better serves both the children and the parents for you to have a short devotional with the children (time of singing, reading Scripture, perhaps a question or two, and a prayer) and then allow them to go outside or in the other room while the parents visit.

This week, if you feel like your children are a detriment to the health of the group, spend some time discussing with one another their perceptions. My guess is one of two things will happen. You may find that you are the only one wrestling with this issue and discover that there is really no need for you to worry. Or, you may find out that others also have a concern, but you will also learn that as you work together as a group, you are all able to come up with a fantastic solution to help all of you—adults and children—grow together. Either way, you win.

Rob

What suggestions do you have to help overcome the sometimes chaotic time of adults and children being together in a small group meeting while still valuing the participation of your children?

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