Guest post by Jayne Vanderstelt.
Keep in mind, when we think about children and our missional community, we ask: How can our children join us in the overall mission? How do we disciple them all week long? How do we make sure the mission is accessible for them? How do we ensure they can participate? How do we help them reach their peers as well?
When we think about our gathering on Tuesday nights, we don’t feel like we have to address all of these in our 2–3-hour time together. We address these through the whole-week approach.
Our gathering on Tuesday nights:
In our experience with kids, we have had to be very strategic. We currently have kids from under age 2 up to age 10. We have done different things, but what works well in my humble opinion is to have people rotate and share the responsibility each week. This adult or older child is NOT responsible for the whole night, but just for the discussion time.
Also, it is important to have a start and finish time of discussion that is clearly discussed and agreed on by all of the adults. This is very important for the kids AND the adults who are serving the kids. An hour and a half is about all we can manage without major meltdowns from both kids and adults. Let the adult know that he or she is free to turn the kids loose at the ending time.
So, as an MC host, you would have a room set aside and ready with some snacks, puzzles, coloring stuff, toys, books, etc., for the adult to take them in and watch them while you were having your discussion (some of our groups use a neighboring house).
Another option is to have this room ready for the kids to stay in and have an “on-call” adult nearby peeking in on them, while partially engaging in the night. That has worked well for us too at times—although some nights an adult may need to be present or it will and has been known to turn into a Lord of the Flies situation.
You could have theme nights each week, such as a popcorn and movie night or art night with crafting supplies ready for them to do a project. Obviously, the younger ones can probably only handle a story or two, but the older ones can work on some scripture memory or something like that. Reading to them from the Jesus Storybook Bible each week is a good option. Free play is also very important so the kids can socially engage and interact with one another. When the weather is nice outside (not much in the Northwest), we encourage the kids to play together outside.
Remember that all of our groups are always changing and adapting, so our methods and practice need to change with them.
As the host of the home, I have always tried to keep my eye on things and have made an effort to help the moms with young ones, stepping in to rescue them if they looked exhausted. I think there needs to be leadership exercised as the host in serving, and sometimes that means we sacrifice things to teach others how to host and serve sacrificially. We are always teaching by our actions, knowing that when others lead out of their home someday, they will have seen that modeled and have been taught that is how we develop servant leaders.
Remember that you are not being stuck back with the kids, that your discussions are NOT superior and more important than your interactions with these young ones. You can’t look at these kids as a hindrance or interruption. They need to be taught and guided, and sometimes, depending on their ages, this needs to be done in a separate area of the house so they can best learn and engage. It is an honor and privilege to pray for, prepare lessons for, and to hang out with them.
Most of the obstacles in our own group have been not logistics but a heart issue. I have totally struggled with this in the past, which is why I feel I can speak into it. My heart in the past has looked down on this task and looked at it as overwhelming and “not fair” that I am always “stuck” with figuring it out. I am ashamed of that—but thank you, Jesus, for interrupting my thoughts and forgiving this sin, revealing to me this is a situation to embrace, not “solve.” Hopefully, by the grace of God after a little teaching to your adults, you will have people arguing about who gets to be with the kids next. I will pray you will see that happen.
This article was originally posted here. Jayne Vanderstelt lives with her husband, Jeff Vanderstelt, and their three children in suburbs of Bellevue, Washington.