Three Tips for Engaging Kids at Your Midweek Group
September 20th, 2016 | John Chandler
Being part of an intergenerational Midweek Group where children and adults are worshipping, eating, praying, serving, and playing alongside one another is full of both challenges and rewards. Countless books and articles are available about how to create healthy, intergenerational groups. Oftentimes those authors paint idealized pictures of what it’s like to bring adults and kids together for a few hours each week in a home group setting.
I’ve been privileged to witness some of those perfect moments. But just as often, I’ve experienced countless interruptions, dirty diapers, and eruptions of conflict between children.
“What should we do with the kids?”
This is one of the top questions any group I’ve been part of has needed to address. It’s an important question because families participating together in the different facets of their church community is critical to the spiritual growth of both the adults as well as the children.
It’s not always easy. But family life has a measure of complication that can be overcome with some creativity, commitment, and perspective. In my experience, each group will find a unique way to include families with children that addresses the needs and desires specific to the members of the group.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as your group works to include everyone, including singles, families with kids at home of all ages, empty nesters, and couples without children:
Listen to everyone’s needs and desires
The midweeks groups are like extended families. When we love each other like Jesus teaches us, we put the needs of others above our own. The result can mean that our needs get met because someone else is looking to serve us. This is where being honest, keeping communication open, and trusting each other comes into play.
Kids can add many levels of complication to any home group. They are noisy, there are schedule and location issues because of early bedtimes, and sometimes families feel unwelcome because of their child or children. The main thing to remember is to keep checking in with each other, allowing space for honest dialogue about what’s working and what isn’t.
Make sure that kids are included and feel a sense of belonging and ownership in the group
Kids are best discipled by their parents, but parents need a lot of support! Midweek Groups are the perfect place to build genuine friendships with kids, and to begin to influence their relationship with God.
It’s no different than making friends with adults, and in a lot of ways it’s easier because kids haven’t learned to be socially awkward. Include kids in the conversation during dinner. Ask them about their week, or about school. Tell them you’re praying about specific things and then remember to follow up the next time you see them. Create a special time for the kids to participate in your midweek group with the adults before they’re sent into another room. Or, plan something special for them from week to week during the adult discussion.
Most important, remember that being on “kid duty” is a privilege. You’re not missing out on the adult conversation; you’re getting to play and to influence the faith of children. That’s a very important job. And the kids’ parents are thankful for the attention and friendship you offer their kids.
Stick to a set timeframe
It can feel clumsy, but adhering to a schedule will make your time together much more pleasant. This is especially important during the adult discussion. Set aside 30 minutes, or whatever time works for your group, and stick to it. Groups I’ve been part of that did this became efficient at sharing within 30-45 minutes. We knew we only had a little while, so we didn’t waste time! Kids don’t have long attention spans, esp at the end of the day. Your group will experience fewer melt-downs and interruptions if the kids know that the adults will be done when they say they’ll be done.
My family has participated in intergenerational groups in homes for over a decade now. It’s one of my favorite things we do together. Now that my girls are teens I love seeing them talk with adults they’ve known since they were babies about school, friends, and their plans for the future.
It was in home groups that my girls formed significant friendships with peers, as well as adults who continue to take an active interest in their lives even though we don’t see each other as frequently. There were times I wondered if it was worth it, but I continue to see the fruit of the challenging years when they were younger.