On the family ministry side of the aisle, our commitment to create environments conducive to providential relationships caused us to make several strategic decisions. The most significant was our decision to keep group leaders with their small groups as long as possible. The longer a group leader was with a group of kids, the more likely it was that a relationship would develop–and thus the greater chance of God using a group leader in a significant way in the life of one of the kids in his or her group. So when adults volunteer to lead a group of first graders, they stay with the group of children (and their parents) all the way through fifth grade. Not only does this create the potential for long-term relationships, it creates a degree of accountability that goes way beyond the weekend experience. It’s not unusual for group leaders to stay with their groups as they transition into our middle school ministry. That provides them with eight years of influence during what is arguably the most important time for a child developmentally, spiritually, and relationally.
Providential Relationship: “Two things make a relationship providential: when we hear from God through someone and when we see God in someone. When either of those things happens, our faith gets bigger.” (Deep & Wide p. 132)
8 Years ago I would have believed the idea of finding small group leaders who would invest in the lives of a group of kids week in and week out even for a school year was impossible, much less several years. Then I met Craig Jutila at a Purpose Driven Children’s Conference. He talked about elevating the commitment of volunteers–moving off of rotation to getting people who were willing to invest in the lives of a small group of kids on a weekly basis. Since then I have led two kidmin environments in two churches and coached several others to transition from large rotations of volunteers to a core group of small group leaders deeply investing in the lives of kids on a weekly basis.
Here’s a few things that I think only invested leaders can do:
- Only invested leaders can help connect a child’s faith to community. There is more childcare than community when volunteers are on rotation.
- Only invested leaders are able to show how God’s truth intersects with real life because they invite kids into their own lives and inspire their faith by example.
- Only invested leaders can create a place where kids can be known and belong.
- Only invested leaders know enough about a child’s spiritual journey to know their next spiritual step.
- Only invested leaders know about what’s going on in a child’s life to layer God’s truth into their lives in a relevant way.
- Only invested leaders can effectively partner with parents.
- Only invested leaders can create environments that supply the relational ingredients of spiritual growth: care, accountability and belonging.
Keeping children and students with the same small group leader for several years creates a healthy relational dynamic. Children and students are particularly susceptible to misinterpreting negative events. Having a mature adult in their lives in addition to their parents can make all the difference when grappling with challenging circumstances.
from Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
At the end of the day without invested leaders what’s left on the table is life transformation. That’s unacceptable to me.