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Parent and Small Group Leader: A Child Needs Both

Last Friday you put on some tunes and busted a move in front of your totally-mortified middle school sons. Then tonight they came home from the dance doing the sprinkler, just like you taught ’em—only they gave credit to Jeff, their small group leader. What gives?

And it’s not just your own kids, either. One of the toddlers you teach at church lost it over a missing toy on Sunday. You tried to talk her through it with no luck. In the end all she needed was a big hug from mom and the tears dried right up.

You might be wondering if you’re doing it all wrong. You’re not. 

You’re simply living the reality that kids benefit from having solid relationships with adults both inside and outside of the home. That’s because some things are better received from parents. Other stuff lands easier on the ears when it’s coming from anyone but mom and dad.

And hey, that’s just a part of what makes this dynamic duo—parents and small group leaders—so powerful. Your influence in each role matters. 

Parents lead the way.

Besides the whole “put a roof over their head and food in their mouth” thing what, exactly, do parents offer kids that they can’t get anywhere else? Historical knowledge. No one knows a kid like mom and dad do.

Seriously. You can conduct all the studies and read all the research and every individual kid will still be exactly that: an individual. Every kid is nuanced, unique, special. And only the folks who are there in the wee hours of the morning and cuddled up before bedtime at night—only those people know what a kid is truly like and what they really need.

And we don’t even have to mention—but we will—that no one, and we mean no one, loves a child like a parent loves a child. It’s a magical thing.

Then why do kids need more than just their parents? Well, parents start out with this thing called low relational influence. Newborns don’t need to connect with parents as much as they need to be cared for by parents. Feed me, hold me, help me fall asleep.

But the jump from baby to toddler to graduation happens fast. Crazy fast. Which means parents aren’t really raising kids. They’re raising adults.

Managing the transition is tricky. As a parent you’re trying to slowly increase your relational influence and decrease your “because I said so” influence. It can be pretty tough to get right.

This is where the church comes in.

Churches work with kids of all ages every week. That means they have a good idea of what life will look like when a teen goes from ninth to tenth grade and a toddler becomes a preschooler because they see the shift happen year after year. With this knowledge, churches can help parents prepare for what’s ahead.

This is why Small Group Leaders are so important. Just like a parent is an expert on one kid, Small Group Leaders are experts on a group of kids in one phase of life.

As an expert, small group leaders learn everything they can about the phase of their kids. Then, and this is key, they show up. Week after week, month after month. Small Group Leaders offer a consistent, non-parental adult presence.

Studies show that kids who have regular, positive adult influence outside the home are more likely to win in life. And every kid, no matter their age, needs a leader who shows up.

Preschoolers need a consistent adult because they can be terrified of an unfamiliar face.

Elementary kids need a consistent adult because they will tell anything to a stranger.

Middle schoolers need a consistent adult because nothing else in their life is consistent.

High schoolers need a consistent adult because they only trust people who show up.

And really, that’s what we’re talking about here. Adults who show up. In the home and out of the home. Because every kid needs someone who knows their history. And every kid needs someone who can rediscover them now.

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