Our small group of adults was moving harmoniously into deeper worship as we sang the familiar choruses to the accompaniment of a skilled guitarist. Between songs, we sat quietly in an attitude of worship, enjoying the evident presence of God. The tranquility was quickly shattered as my exasperated 2-year old, with tears flowing down his face, barged into the scene notifying me of how one of his fellow playmates had grabbed a toy from him. I tried to make a peaceful exit from the meeting, whisking him back downstairs where my eyes confronted the chaos that had hit that room. Six kids, all under the age of 5, had succeeded at nearly dismantling our family room. Toys were flying through the air as the kids ran amok before my eyes. Although the children had been placed under the supervision of some small group members, including myself, we were enjoying the worship so much that we failed to think about the kids.
It was not long before the Lord showed me my error. I read about Jesus, bring the children into the middle of a group, taking them into His arms while declaring, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My Name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome me but the One who sent Me." (Mark 9:37 NIV). Then I realized the children had not been welcome in our midst and therefore Jesus had not been welcome either. With this fresh realization, I knew that we had been approaching our small groups incorrectly and that we needed to make our groups child-friendly.
A new set of values must be embraced if children are going to feel welcome in a small group:
- Understand that children are just as important and spiritual as you or me.
- Children should not ever feel displaced in our small groups. All family members should feel welcome.