One of your primary functions as a small group leader is to create a safe place for your few. A place of safety sets the stage for a trusting relationship that can last for many years. However, I’m not talking about the kind of environment where kids open up and share personal stories. Neither am I talking about the kind of setting where there is trust and confidentiality. Yes, all those things are desired, but I’m talking about something even more practical and safe than all of these things. Your job as a SGL is to create a safe place for your few, in the eyes of the parents of your few.
Times have changed. When I was a 7 year-old kid, a trip to the local K-Mart included me hanging out in the Toy Department for well over an hour… by myself. Today, few parents would let their kids have this kind of freedom in such a public place where the local news tells us that kidnappers, pedafiles and other misfits lurk behind every corner. Today’s parents are skeptical and less trusting. Want to make a long-term, significant investment in the lives of your few? Show the parents of your few that your group is a place where their kids are safe.
You’re a perfectly good, law-abiding citizen… but the parent of a kid who just visited your group today doesn’t know that. Perception is reality and it’s important that the perception you create is one that communicates safety and security.
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. Your church has probably developed a set of boundaries that help in creating a safe place. Policies such as “never be alone with a child,” guidelines about appropriate touch and rules about taking kids on bathroom breaks. Yes, a slumber party at your house sounds like an incredible opportunity connect with your few, but the very idea might come across as creepy to some of your kids’ parents. More than likely, your church has some guidelines about activities outside church service times. These guidelines exist to ensure that your group is a safe place for your few, in the eyes of the parents of your few.
Be mindful of the overly protective and skeptical parents visiting your church. Right or wrong, these parents love their kids and want the absolute best for them. Do you come across as someone who seems “safe?” Do your words build trust in the ears of parents? Have your actions inspired confidence? If you want to lead these kids, you may have to earn that right by their parents first.