I can remember visiting the zoo as a child. Watching a group of monkeys in their habitat swinging through the branches and screeching at each other as they played. It was incredibly entertaining & fascinating to my 5 year old mind.

This past Fall, I had mental flashbacks of that monkey scene as I watched our brand new kindergarten groups adjust to their new Small Group environments on Sunday morning.

Kindergartners (aka former Preschoolers) have an uphill climb the first several months of the school year. And they need a good, solid guide by their side.

Kindergartners have to learn a new set of skills to help them be a great small group member as they grow.  Some of these are simple things like “how to sit in a circle” or “what it means to listen” or “how to participate in a way that helps the whole group”.

And as with any skill, learning takes time.

If you are a SGL to the newest members to your elementary environment, give yourself (and your few) a little grace and invest time in training.  Here are some things I’ve learned from some seasoned SGLs to help any leader maintain the attention of their few.  Maybe they’ll help you, too.

  • Set expectations at the beginning of each group. Let your few know how many activities you will do together, what they will do during each activity, and hold them accountable to the expectations you’ve shared.
  • Children will listen with interest if you are interesting. Laugh and use your voice inflection to keep their interest. Make eye contact and smile. Most children listen if they feel special and loved.
  • Use a calm but authoritative voice that lets your few know that you’re in charge. Don’t be afraid to correct one of your few. You can all have more fun if your few are engaged and working together.
  • Use prizes to motivate your few to listen and participate. Small prizes like a hand stamp or stickers allow you to reward ‘along the way’ rather than holding out a big prize until the end. Most kids struggle to remain motivated if the reward feels out of reach. Allow them to experience their reward in smaller doses.
  • Use a ‘Listening Friend’ like a stuffed animal. Pass this around the group so everyone knows who is speaking and who is listening.

What would you add to this list to train a new Small Group participant?

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Gina is the Children’s Pastor at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Gina is driven by the idea of equipping, encouraging & empowering parents for the journey of teaching their kids to love and be loved by Jesus. Based upon her experience as a mom, she identifies with the everyday challenges of parenting. Gina and her husband, Kyle, have three kids, Keegan, Josie and Connor.

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