After the busyness of the holidays, families are making their way back to church in the new year. That means that familiar faces will re-emerge after weeks of being away.
For some children in your group, returning to church will be a piece of cake. They’ll jump back in, almost as if they’ve not been away at all. For other children, settling back in to your routine will be unsettling. There might even be a few new faces mixed in with the crowd.
So how can you help your small group reconnect with each other after so much disruption to their routine? Here are six ideas to consider:
- Tell them how much you missed them – and mean it. Greet them enthusiastically. Kids who have been away will want to know that you realized they’ve been absent and will want to feel welcomed back. Make their entrance a really big deal!
- Allow time for planned – but casual – conversation. Family routine brings children to church but connected relationships keep them there. Intentionally make time for the children to reconnect through conversation. (Yes, it’s ok to set the planned lesson aside for this. These informal conversations are important for building relationships.) Toss out icebreakers that are fun but don’t put kids on the spot. Get them talking about their week, their extra-curricular activities, school, and other topics of interest that can break down barriers. This is especially important for children who are new to your group.
- Reiterate that your group is a safe place. Allow them time to ease back into small group life by not forcing them to share until they feel more comfortable. Realize that some kids need more time to ‘warm up’.
- Get the children excited about what’s coming up. Send a fun postcard or note in the mail, inviting them to be part of the fun. Give them a sneak peek of what they’ll learn in the coming weeks, events that will take place and other exciting programming elements. Personal invitations go a long way in making a child feel welcome and accepted in a group.
- As a group, come up with a special trademark for your group as a special welcome or goodbye gesture. Comprise a chant, rap, handshake or hand jive that the kids will love!
- Start a class prayer journal. Each week, have a question written on a page in a composition or spiral notebook. Invite a child to write his or her response in the book. Then use it to pray for that child during the week. Not only are you building a relationship but you are providing a safe way to share things that they might not want to verbalize in front of the group.
While realizing that doing this these things will help your group reconnect, being there for them, investing them, and cheering them on will make even deeper connections. Ask God to help you be the type of small group leader who champions relationships and works hard to facilitate them.
by Kathie Phillips
Kathie Phillips is Director of Children’s Ministry at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. She blogs at www.kidminspiration.com.