These small groups may prefer a solution that lets them enjoy time with other adults and also creates special times and events that include children. In doing so, group members get to know one another more deeply as they get to know each other’s children. Kids also have the opportunity to meet adults who are important in the lives of their parents.
These groups often enjoy a quarterly gathering of families as they celebrate holidays or take on a service project together. Consider a special Christmas party that includes children. Maybe incorporate some fun activities like Christmas crafts or decorating cookies. During the summer, gather all the families and have a special picnic, play backyard games, or go to a lake together. There is no shortage of fun, family activities that can be easily planned throughout the year. These are relatively easy ways to include children in this type of group structure.
3. Children NEAR the group
This solution ratchets up the connection between the family and the group. The kids are on the premises, but they’re quickly whisked away to a playroom so the adults can get down to business. Other than the very beginning and the conclusion, children are not part of the group.
Groups that choose this option require a space for both the group and for the kids. It doesn’t work so well if parents are distracted by kids in an adjoining room. Once space is solved, childcare during group time must be considered. Some churches recruit middle or high school students as sitters if the group has trouble recruiting someone to help with the kids. While not ideal, some groups save money by having adults from the group take turns watching the kids. This approach is fine, but it does mean at least two parents aren’t present for the entire group time.
Family groups without babies and who have elementary children can sometimes put the kids in a room with a video or with some toys. This either works well or turns into the Lord of the Flies. Parents who take this approach need to be aware that things could go downhill quickly if the social dynamics aren’t right.
4. Children AROUND the group
Some groups enjoy what many would consider disorder (or downright chaos). Kids wander in and out. Babies might be passed from person to person. Children are not participants, but they are not necessarily a distraction either. The small group discussion carries on even though the children might disrupt.
Viewing quiet and orderliness as rather dull and undesirable, these groups thrive on unpredictability, variety, and interruption. Groups like this will find the constant action of kids to be a healthy dynamic of their community. Think of this as a family party where all generations converge. Sure, kids may interrupt the conversation or need attention, but that’s normal in a family gathering.
This type of group might seem too distracting and it’s certainly not right approach for every group. Even so, it’s probably pretty close to the first-century Christian experience.
5. Children IN the group
Some groups go beyond allowing the kids to wander in and out of the group time and actually include them in the meeting. While not tailoring topics and questions specifically to the kids, they welcome participation from everybody. Adults benefit by hearing youthful perspectives and children benefit by hearing mature voices share their insights.