Reaching Children through Small Groups

Reaching Children through Small Groups

The North American church has much to learn about developing children’s small groups from these two examples from Central America and South America.

Church Profiles: Elim Church in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Vine Church in Goiania, Brazil

Leonel’s Story

Jenny was sent out by the Elim Church in San Salvador, El Salvador, to open a children’s small group in a very poor home in the center of San Salvador. An older lady and her eight-year-old grandson, Leonel, lived there.

The neighborhood children packed the house to overflowing each week. Jenny recalls the lack of space as the children crammed in each corner to hear God’s Word, memorize Scripture, worship God, and pray together. Leonel’s rooster would often peck at Jenny as she gave the lesson. Despite the pesky bird and cramped conditions, Jenny pressed on for the sake of the children.

Jenny thought Leonel seemed very depressed and sometimes spoke about not wanting to live anymore. Jenny asked if something was wrong, but Leonel always avoided talking about his problems. Over time, and after talking to the grandmother, Jenny pieced together Leonel’s history. Leonel’s mother was impregnated at the age of 13 by a gang member and turned Leonel over to the grandmother. Leonel’s father had to flee the country, and Leonel never heard from him. He had only seen a photo of his birth father. To survive, Leonel and his grandmother sold roasted bananas on the streets.

The good news is that Leonel received Jesus in the children’s small group and began the process of discipleship week after week. He memorized the verses and faithfully attended each meeting. Leonel’s mood changed dramatically, although he would sometimes become discouraged because of his living conditions. Many of the neighbors around Leonel were gang members, and Jenny knew he was vulnerable. She gave Leonel special attention, asking him to help her in the small group. This made him feel important and needed. She also prayed fervently that he would stay strong.

Leonel did make it through those difficult times. He’s now 19 and testifies about God’s grace in his life. “Before I didn’t care about even living, but now I have a new purpose in life,” Leonel says. “Jesus is my priority now, and he’s helped me to avoid the mistakes of those around me.” Leonel now attends an Elim youth small group as well as the weekly church services. He dreams of studying mechanical engineering in college. He’s polite, respectful, and a trophy of God’s grace—someone who was rescued by an Elim small group in the dark, broken city of San Salvador.

Elim Church’s Approach to Reaching Children

Elim Church uses two methods for reaching children through small groups, intergenerational groups (IG groups) and children-only groups (CO groups).

IG groups are attended by adults and children. The children normally come to the groups with their parents.

CO groups meet separately from adult groups. The children have their own icebreaker, worship, lesson, and vision-casting time. The Elim Church will often target densely populated neighborhoods with the goal of starting CO groups.

To help better understand the differences between IG and CO groups, we’ll take a look at location, meeting time, leadership, leadership training and meeting order. After briefly covering the basics of IG groups, we’ll go into greater detail for the CO groups.

Intergenerational Groups

Groups meet outside the church building—usually in homes.

Meeting Time

The groups meet weekly.


Leadership is shared. Adults rotate to teach the children’s portion of the meeting.

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