Kids are funny. The younger they are, the more likely you are to know what’s going through their minds at any given moment, and oftentimes it has nothing to do with what’s going on in everyone else’s minds! On one of my girls’ birthday, we were talking about what she wanted for her birthday. Another girl piped up and said, “It’s my mom’s birthday and all she wants is for my dad to pick up his dirty socks!” Those kinds of stories are cute. But what happens when the randomness of a kid’s brain threatens to derail the entire Small Group conversation?
One Sunday, as we were reviewing the Bible story, I asked the girls: “Who was John the Baptist’s cousin?” They answered the question and we moved on. Rather, I THOUGHT we were moving on, until one girl said, “That’d be weird if your cousin was Jesus.” Yep, sweetie it sure would be. Okay, next question—“I mean, my cousin is pretty annoying. Do you think Jesus was annoying?”
Whoa. Aside from being completely random, this question had heavy theological implications. Sure, Jesus may have annoyed His cousins and siblings. He was, after all, 100% human, and what human hasn’t annoyed someone at one point or another? On the other hand, I certainly wasn’t going to tell my group of very impressionable young minds that Jesus is annoying!
In that moment, I realized something: the small group curriculum is not a script; it’s a guideline and a jumping-off point. As 3rd graders, my kids probably knew all the answers to the Bible story review questions. So I set aside my leader guide and asked the kids what they thought. “Do you think it would have been annoying to have Jesus as your cousin or your brother? He never did anything wrong, so surely He never got grounded or anything like that!” We had some fun for a few minutes imagining Jesus as our brother.
Then it got deep.
The same girl who asked the original, derailing question, said: “Did Jesus’ brother and cousin believe He was God’s Son?” Boom. There it was: the payoff for abandoning my leader guide. What followed was an awesome discussion about how it’s a miracle that people believed Jesus was the Son of God, and an even greater miracle that His own brother and cousin believed it! Only the actual Son of God could convince His own brother that He’s the Son of God.
Do you have a group that tends to want to broaden the scope of the day’s subjects? Don’t be afraid to go off-script. Those are the conversations that could leave a lasting impression on a child’s faith.