Do you create a compelling group experience that kids want to return to each week?

There are times that I think of my church like I do my favorite fast food restaurant. The environments you serve in are the colorful twisty, plastic slide and ball pit displayed just behind the floor to ceiling window facing the busy highway. There are also times that I think of my church like my kids and I going out to eat.  The relationships are the sweet, creamy ice dream cones drizzled in chocolate syrup that keep us coming back for more (bet you can’t guess my favorite fast food restaurant). And just like a certain bovine heaven wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if the only thing served behind the colorful plastic playground was over-cooked brussel sprouts… in our efforts to create amazing small groups we can’t forget that it’s actually the relationships—the people—who draw these kids into the magnetic story of God.

It’s people in the parking lot, people at the doors, people in the classrooms, people in the auditorium, people on the stage, and people sitting next to other people. (That may be the most times I’ve used the word people in a sentence, let’s hope you get the point.)

Relationships matter now more than ever. Here are four ways to ensure that you are putting value in the people and not the things:

1. Encourage Conversation. I’m not saying we should make introverts stand up and talk to strangers, but we should be encouraging our kids to connect. Always be looking for the ‘lost in the building’ person, to seek out the parent that could use a hand, and to make face-to-face interactions with kids in and around your small group. Make the first-time count for something.

2. Lead Small through Small Groups. I’m 100% convinced that circles are better than rows. When you choose to lead a small group, you are leading in a big way. Learn to see what you do in that short amount of small group time as vital! Make relationships matter by making community in circles the most valuable resource in your church.

3. Learn some Names. Have you reminded yourself lately to make eye contact, to lean in when talking, and to remember a kids name? It’s our job as a leader to communicate the value of building relationships. As a parent of 3, I cannot overstate how important it is for me that the leaders of my children connect with my children.

4. Respect the Journey. Surface level relationships are still relationships. All relationships begin awkward, simple, and sometimes frustratingly slow. The journey towards community is a long one, but when we value the story being written over the chapters we are living in, then we have a God-shaped view of what real relationships and community could be.

“… and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

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Jonathan Cliff is a huge advocate for families and believes that the family can be God's primary way of reaching the world that they live in. Jonathan and his wife, Starr, have a full house with two sons, Ryan and Dylan, and one daughter, Lauryn. They have also served as foster parents for many kids over the years, and have a great passion for broken families being restored.'

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