To a preschooler, “present” = gift.
Wrapped in sparkly paper with a bow on top. As a small group leader of preschoolers, it is critical that you be present, not be a present. Why? You, the SGL are connecting the faith of the preschoolers to a community. The 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s don’t understand it that way at the time. What they do understand, on a very basic level is that you care about them, you know them, you help them experience God’s love.
In order to accomplish that huge task, you must be a consistent presence in their lives. Babies, starting at around 8-months-old, begin to express separation anxiety. They feel that if Mom leaves them in the nursery, she may not come back. A familiar face eases that anxiety. The infant senses that you know her, you feel confident in that relationship and will meet her needs for that hour. Toddlers and preschoolers seek consistency in relationships and routines. A consistent small group leader meets that need, knows the routine and creates the comfort of predictability.
But, it’s not enough to just be there each week. A small group leader needs to really be there – physically, emotionally and mentally. How many questions can you enthusiastically answer at one time? Are you prepared to lead the imaginary train down the hallway to transition from one space to another? Did you practice and memorize the motions for that month’s song – and the Memory Verse? Really being there means that you anticipate and prepare for the expected and unexpected events for that time together.
And, it speaks volumes to a preschooler (and his family) when you randomly show up in the life of the child. Is a 4-year-old talking about her birthday party? Check with the parent to see if you can stop by. Do you know that one of your 3-year-olds plays soccer every Saturday morning? Go to the game and cheer. Your preschoolers assume that you live at the church. They will be amazed to see you out of that context and in real life!
As a well-known real estate company says, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Show that you care – be present!
What are some of the most powerful and effective ways you have found to be present in the lives of your preschoolers?