Silhouette Andrew Pano

As with Adults

Small group leaders often think that having children in the group will involve them in difficulties that can only be resolved by having an "expert" on hand. In this article I want to give you a very simple tool that will enable every small group leader and every small group member to facilitate the inclusion of children very naturally.

The tool is very simply "As with adults!" This simple statement can revolutionize your small group. Sometimes people come to me and say that they were in a conference where I was speaking, or have read one of my books. I always ask them to “prove it!” They reply, "As with adults."
Children have the same needs as adults in many areas of their lives. Most of the problems that are encountered are because they are expected to be totally different, so adults then feel they could never cope with any significant interaction with them.

In many nations I have done a brain storm on what an adult needs as a member of a small group. Responses can be varied but include:

  • To meet with Jesus
  • Fun
  • Friendships
  • Encouragement
  • Unconditional love and acceptance
  • Accountability
  • Support in reaching unsaved friends, etc.

Then we look at the list and see how many of these a child would not need. Always we find it is the same, so it is "as with adults." I am not simplistically saying that it is true of every situation, but remembering this will help you overcome most of the difficulties you might encounter and give you a tool to help small group members.
The following list has an element of fun and, as you read it, you will see the principle in action and understand how liberating this can be to every adult!

  • It is the children's meeting, not their play time... As with adults.
  • Do not use long words or religious language, the children will understand better... As with adults (especially new believers).
  • Do not move on too quickly without checking the children have understood... As with adults.
  • Remember that children have a range of understanding that may not be reflected by their age... As with adults.
  • Ensure that no child is excluded from conversation and interaction or they will become bored... As with adults.
  • Follow up a child’s comments, treat their input seriously... As with adults.
  • Ask for their opinions and ideas... As with adults.
  • Follow up any problems they may have... As with adults.
  • Check they are not all sitting too closely together... As with some adults!!
  • Have expectations and standards relevant to their age, i.e. no crawling around the floor during the meeting... As with adults!
  • Support, encourage, and follow up the children... As with adults.
  • Do not have too many "broken wing" children in one small group... As with adults.
  • Raise them as a generation who are discipled and know how to win and disciple their friends... As with adults.
  • You may find it hard to accommodate some children… You may find it hard to accommodate some adults... Prayer and relationship will give breakthroughs for both!

 By applying this principle you can solve your own difficulties :

  • Question: What do I do if a child does not want to attend small group meetings?
  • Think: What would you do if an adult did not want to attend?
  • Visit them; ask if there was any way the small group could make a difference, build relationship with them, etc.
  • As with adults!
  • Question: What would I do in a small group meeting if a child is reluctant to take part?
  • Think: What would I do if an adult was reluctant to take part?
  • Break into twos or threes so they can speak in a smaller setting, validate them, see if there are any reasons why they might not feel safe enough to speak out in the group.
  • As with adults!
  • Question: What would I do if a child is sick?
  • Think: What would I do if an adult is sick?
  • Visit them, pray for them, and take them an appropriate gift to show you care.
  • As with adults!
  • Question: How can I build friendship with a child?
  • Think: How do I build friendship with an adult?
  • Spend time with them, visit them in their home, remember their birthdays, take an interest in things that are important to them, speak to them when you see them, sit next to them.
  • As with adults!

Now complete your own!

  • Questions: What do I expect a child to gain by being part of the small group?
  • Think: What do I expect an adult to gain by being part of the small group?
  • ____________________________________________________?
  • As with adults!

I conclude by adding that I am aware that children do have areas where they have different needs from adults BUT if the "As with adults" principle is applied to your small group you will immediately rise to a new paradigm and liberate every group member to be able to respond to, relate to, and mobilize children. It can be fun!!