Making the Most of Your Small Groups

Making the Most of Your Small Groups

Just realized this didn’t get posted!  Sorry for the lateness!

For my second breakout at The Gathering, I attended the Small Group session with Matt Barnes, Angelina Pavone and Stacy Igarashi.   They all work at Rock Harbor, and it was great to hear how they run things week in and week out.  Here are some notes from the session:

Elements of the Tru Curriculum

  1. Anticipate (early activity to set the stage for the lesson to come)
  2. Large Group Lesson
  3. Response (check Tommy Larson’s post for more details)
  4. Small Group (discussion questions)
  5. Create/Engage (craft, activity, game)
  6. Blessing (and dismissal)

Getting Volunteers On Board

Small group is when volunteers spend a good chunk of time with the kids, leading discussion questions and helping them find personal application from the lesson.  You want your volunteers to have the same vision as you in order to make this time effective.  In addition, small group leaders help set the tone for your program in general.  If your leaders are 100% on board with the vision, you will have an alive, vibrant experience.  On the other hand if you’ve got people who feel obligated or are just trying to escape “big church”, you’re in for some trouble.

Stacy recommended having a sit down meeting with all the potential volunteers before they ever step foot inside a classroom. She shares the philosophy and elements of Tru, explaining how parents are the primary leaders and it is the church’s job to create an environment where the kids can experience God.    She wants them to know that small group time is not about RE-teaching the lesson.  It’s about building relationships.

Flickr by Robert Scoble

Inspire, Equip, Support

One feature of Tru is the Inspire, Equip, Support section of each week’s lesson.  The leaders at ROCKHARBOR realized that many of their leaders were skipping over this section.  They started saying to the small group leaders, “If you can’t read anything else, make sure you get this section in.”    Matt explained,  “We want them to lead from the overflow of their own heart.  If they spend time with God, thinking about the lesson, often the lesson transforms the heart of the small group leader.  This makes a much more powerful experience for everyone.”

No Playground For Us

Stacy was spending some time with one of the small groups one week when a newer girl asked a question.  “This is a pretty big church, right?” The girl asked.  Stacy agreed that it was and then tried to redirect the girl back to the lesson.  Not to be deterred, the young girl continued, “Yeah, I used to go to another big church.  They had a big playground out back.  You guys don’t have a playground, do you?”  Stacy conceded, that no, they did not have a big playground, or any playground for that matter.   What the girl said next was compelling.  “I’m glad,”  she explained, “that playground was so distracting to me.  I knew that at the end of the lesson that we could all go outside and play, and I honestly could not concentrate on what the teacher was saying.  I just kept thinking about that playground.  What I was going to do when I got out there and who was going to get the swing next to me.  Here, I don’t have to think about that playground and I can listen to God.”

Flickr by MASB Desenvolvimento Imobiliário

Should we pass on the playground?

When I heard that story, I have to admit, I was a bit convicted.  I often suffer from church-envy, especially when I visit those mega-churches with the MURALS.  I have a serious case of mural envy.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if we should focus so much on “fun” in Children’s Ministry.  Kids naturally have fun.  Put two kids in a room and they will find some fun.  Maybe we should stop trying to be Disney World or McDonald’s and be the church.  When people come to church, aren’t they looking for something MORE?  If they only wanted fun, they would head to the zoo or the beach.  By stepping inside the doors of the church, they are acknowledging they are looking for something deeper and maybe we completely thwart that desire by providing too much distraction.

What Do You Think?

Should we focus on fun in Kidmin or just “let it happen”?  Are playgrounds and murals too much of a distraction or a helpful tool?  What has been your experience?  How do we find the balance?

What about your Small Group time?  How do you make it the best it can be?

Leave a Comment and let me know! 

Stay tuned for some great Q&A from this Small Group section!




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  1. Lindsey, love your thoughts about murals, relationships, and fun! We have great murals at FBO, but I’m with you…it’s about fun and relationships. If there’s one thing we should be doing better than EVERYONE else it’s….building relationships.


  1. […] but I’m not convinced the over-the-top decorations and play structures are the way to go, especially after hearing this little girl’s story.  However, I do think we need to make the church appealing to the eye.  That means keeping things […]

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