Mrs. Carol, my co-leader, had been absent from small groups for two weeks. When she arrived in the room she was greeted enthusiastically by our fourth grade girls.

One of the girls, Elizabeth said, “Mrs. Carol, Katie has a question for you.” But Katie, embarrassed, shook her head and wouldn’t ask. So Elizabeth asked for her: “You hurt your knee, right? So . . . how do you go to the bathroom when your knee hurts?”

I laughed and looked at Carol. “That’s a great question, Elizabeth and Katie! I can’t wait to hear Mrs. Carol explain that to us!” (I couldn’t help but egg it on just a little bit.) Because Mrs. Carol knows what many other small group leaders knows: small groups can be messy.

Kids will blurt out the first thing on their mind. They’ll ask personal questions you never thought you’d answer. They’ll tell you the nitty-gritty details of what’s happening in their families. They’ll share the details of the slumber party they didn’t get invited to. You see, when you create a safe place, kids are free to open up, ask questions, and even share the not-so-fun side of their lives, too.

As small group leaders we have to remember that kids need a safe outlet. They don’t need someone to judge them because they ask weird or hard questions, but someone who will help them discover the answers. They don’t need someone who tells them they’re wrong for the way they feel about the bully down the street but someone who will care about their feelings. They don’t need someone who always tries to fix their problems but someone who will listen.

Building a safe place in your small group means that your kids can continue to trust you when things get complicated. Now, there may be times when you need to report issues of abuse and endangerment to people in authority, but even in those times, an air of trust must be maintained between you and the rest of your group. Kids need to know that they’re safe with you—physically, mentally, and emotionally. They need to know that you’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe. They need to know that they can ask any questions they have, about faith and life. And they need to know they won’t be ridiculed for having doubts and fears.

Yes, small groups get messy—especially if you miss a few weeks with a hurt knee. But even Mrs. Carol will tell you that an awkward conversation was worth it in the end. Because after she answered that question, they had other questions for her. Questions about following God when their friends at school don’t believe God exists.

SGLs, I want to know: what’s the most awkward question you’ve ever been asked by your few?

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