Have questions about student ministry, serving the marginalized and protecting our kids, and logistics … get your answers here.
Last week’s blog post about how to care for, disciple, and include kids during small group or missional community meetings sparked some good dialog on social media. Similar questions and answers have been discussed in the online community. Here’s a recap.
What are some best practices for engaging kids of all different ages in the missional community group experience? We have lots of little kids (ages 2–6) and then lots of big kids (ages 8–14). Our format right now is to share a community meal, share a story through the Bible together, discuss the Bible story, and then end in prayer. So far we have been having the little kids go upstairs with a babysitter after the community meal, while the older kids go into a play room with a parent to do separate discussion on the Bible story.
When it comes to kids, I personally like to engage the kiddos whenever possible, especially the tweens. They need to know that what God is revealing to them matters as much as everyone else in the room. We are called to operate as a family, so I always like the idea of having the kids together with everyone else—but I realize mass numbers might pose a problem. —Luke
We are currently putting together something for kiddos. We have the younger kids eat meals with us and go on mission, but then have various people from the community watch/disciple the younger kids. (We rotate people through). When we were really small, we sometimes paid a babysitter to watch the younger ones. We are working on a resource that talks about the various levels of involvement at different ages. At the very least it would be helpful to have a coming-of-age ceremony for the older kids somewhere between 12–14 years of age. There are a lot of great resources on this. Then they can be fully engaged in your MC, mentor DNAs, etc. —Aaron
We have a number of people in our church family who struggle with varying degrees of mental health issues or are convicted felons. They are mostly (if willing) already receiving pastoral counseling and being encouraged where required to pursue medical help and accountability. However, this poses some challenges for our missional communities. One, we have some who can be extremely disruptive and threatening when they do not take their medication. (For example, one woman scared some of the kids by the things she told them.) Two, we want to ensure the safety of our children. In your experience, have you run into this question, and if so how as a church did you approach this issue?
We have faced similar issues in the past. In one particular instance, we had a group that specifically felt called to make space for and even engage intentionally with these kinds of situations. As a result, we have not publicly promoted this group, but people are free to share what the group is about and who they are caring for and invite people in with that knowledge. Some just aren’t prepared for this kind of ministry, and we shouldn’t force them into it. One group feels called to the homeless population of whom several have the struggles you are referring to and others are registered sex offenders. As a result, we are clear about the mission of this group and make sure people know what they are joining before they do.
Another thing that should be addressed here is that we don’t assign people to a group. In others words, we don’t just have people join groups without knowing the mission of the group and without the leaders of the group inviting them in. Too often I see people getting assigned by leadership to a group without knowledge of the group’s mission or without permission from the group. This often leads to people coming into a group without a clear expectation of what the group is all about OR groups receiving people that possibly sideline the mission they were already on. —Jeff
We do background checks for anyone serving with kids at our gatherings. When most people get connected to a missional community (small group), their story is known fairly well by the time they join. If there is even a hint of concern, though, we encourage our group leaders to do a check so there are no lingering questions about anyone. —Todd
How have you gone about student ministry in light of missional communities (MCs)? I have noticed some churches have attempted to make the transition to MCs, but the student ministry is left to function as it always has, in a programmatic fashion. My question is what are some of you already doing? Do you have any advice on how to transition a student ministry to meet the overall vision of a church who is practicing MCs? What would a Wednesday night gathering look like? Do you even do a Wednesday night gathering ? (Why or why not?) What do Sunday mornings look like? Do you offer anything on Sunday morning for students? (Why or why not?) How do you go about integrating students into the larger congregation on a Sunday morning in light of MCs?
From my past experience in youth ministry (17 years) and from working with a lot of different churches around the U.S. and overseas (training youth leaders), yes, you can create a MC-like reality with teenagers. I did it for a number of years, and many of our groups were very healthy with a lot of conversion growth and a lot of disciple-making fruit. We functioned very similar in terms of the students living in community as a family of missionary servants. The mission focus for all of our groups was on their circles of friends. There’s so much natural relational time built into the lives of most young people that if you can help them bring gospel intentionality to the time they spend with their friends, including in community with their Christian friends helping influence each others non-Christian friends, it can be very fruitful.
I think you can continue to use a Wednesday night youth gathering, but even when you gather, spend part of the night organized around the groups having them discuss or plan or pray together as a “family” on mission. You also may want not to gather as a large group one or two times a month, so your student communities can be focused those Wednesdays, or sometime during the week, on spending intentional time with their non-Christian friends.
One thing that has been fruitful with teens here (in Tacoma, WA) is what we call MDNA groups, which stands for Mentor DNAs. These would be groups of three or four teens (all girls or all guys) that have one or two adult mentors that function in the same way as our adult DNAs (Discover, Nurture, Act).
With Sunday mornings, I would say you could still have an age specific class for middle schoolers, but I think high schoolers benefit more by being in the adult gathering than having something age-specific for them. They’re becoming adults and need to be learning to listen, think, pray, and act like adults. —Todd
Do you have more questions about incorporating kids into your church family, missional community, or small group?
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