By Reid Smith
For churches wanting to include younger families in small groups, childcare will always be one of the larger obstacles. But there is hope. Several options exist for successfully accommodating children within a small-group setting.
Children or No Children?
Here are some common options when children participate with adults in the group:
- Children remain present with adults for the entire meeting.
- Children remain present with adults for part of the meeting, and then break into a separate group in a separate room. Children can develop their own small group, participate in an activity (such as a Veggie Tales video), or enjoy a supervised time of free play.
- Children join the adults every other meeting, or once a month. Children and adults meet separately during the other weeks.
- Children and adults meet separately for the entire meeting.
Finding a Babysitter
If you decide to have the children separated from the adults, it’s good to have a babysitter. Here are some ideas for finding and paying a babysitter:
- Adults work together to arrange a babysitter for all of the children in the group. Payment is split among all group members, or among only those bringing children.
- A babysitter cares for most of the children during the group meeting, but nursing infants are allowed to remain with adults.
- Outside of the small group, each parent arranges for the care of their own children through a relative or sitter.
- Older, responsible children of group members serve as the babysitters for the rest of the children of your small group.
- Young adults or teenagers from the church’s youth ministry volunteer to care for the children of your small group as an act of service.
- Young adults or teenagers from the church’s youth ministry care for the children of your small group and are paid for their work.
- Participants of other small groups at your church (ones that meet during a different time of the week) rotate to provide childcare for your small group, which returns the service.
In all of these cases, it’s also wise to check with your church leaders about their child protection policies. They may have suggestions on how to safely care for the children in your group.
Thinking through childcare options from the start of a small group is essential. You’ll minister to young families by making them feel cared for and appreciated.