During our First Look Interactive at #OC17, we had several questions that we hear frequently from our partners about implementing small groups with preschoolers. We hope these FAQ’s will be helpful as you “lead small.”
In the book “Just a Phase,” the word embrace is used to best identify what preschoolers need at this stage. They need to feel safe and loved. Consistent leaders and established routines will contribute to your little ones feeling “embraced” while they are in your ministry. Small groups are a great way to provided this for your preschoolers. How those small groups are arranged will be determined by your facilities, your volunteers, your class size, and you policies.
How many preschoolers should be in a small group?
The purpose of a consistent Small Group Leader (SGL) is to build a relationship with their preschoolers and parents. Those relationships are built each week as they get to know their little ones. The size of each small group needs to allow the SGL hear and interact with them individually, so fewer are better. Five or six can be ideal, that’s enough to do group activities together, but also allow the SGL to have conversations with each of them every week. If the group gets up to 8-10, it becomes harder to connect with each child individually.
How do you get preschoolers to sit and listen?
The very best way to keep the attention of little ones is to be excited, animated, and prepared as a SGL. Don’t expect a preschooler to sit still for long. They aren’t wired that way. If you are excited and animated, they will be drawn to what you are doing or saying. Talk with them rather than to them. Ask them questions, engage them in the activity or story or game. And, most importantly, be prepared! If you are trying to read your activities or lessons from a piece of paper in front of your preschoolers, you will lose them. Know ahead of time what you are going to do and say and be ready to lead through each activity with them. Use the “What You Say” words for each activity to engage your little ones into the conversation.
How do I get my preschoolers to stay on topic?
Inevitably, while making crafts or doing your closing prayer time, you get comments from your little ones about random things like their baby brother’s dirty diapers or grandma’s new dentures. Smile and acknowledge what they have shared and gently lead them back to the topic at hand. Harsh reprimands to stay on topic can cause a little one to refrain from sharing or asking questions in the future. We want to guard their hearts at the same time as we are leading their class.
Do small group leaders stay with their kids until they move to elementary?
This is completely up to you to decide. If you have separate classrooms for 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s, you can decide if your SGLs will move from room to room with their groups, or if they prefer to serve with a certain age. There may be some volunteers who love 2’s and others that prefer to be with the older 5’s.
If your 3-5’s all meet in the same room, having a SGL stay with them is a bit easier. In combined classes, you can group the small groups by age within the class. As your groups grow, you may find the need to split a group that has become to large into two new small groups. Bring the new SGL into the original group well in advance of splitting, so your little ones feel connected, no matter which SGL becomes theirs.
The book, Lead Small, is a great resource for leaders to help their teams understand and embrace the potential found in small group ministry