To a preschooler, “present” equals gift. That may also be the case for some adults too, but we won’t talk about that one right now.
For three and four year olds, presents are wrapped in sparkly paper with bows on top. So explaining the merits of being present to a preschooler may not be the easiest task to accomplish. Fortunately, you don’t have to explain to preschoolers why it’s important for you to be present in their lives as they build faith foundations. You just have to do it.
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 two, three, and four year olds that spend time with you every week 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, and you help them experience God’s love.
In order to accomplish that huge (and very important) task, you must be a consistent presence in their lives. Starting at around eight months old, babies 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 and that 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. And the sense of comfort that predictability and routine aren’t just limited to preschoolers. Even as adults, we know what it’s like to heave a sigh of relief when things turn out just as we hoped and expected.
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 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 four 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 three year olds plays soccer every Saturday morning? Go to the game and cheer him on. Your preschoolers probably 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, and be present!
What are some of the most powerful and effective ways you have found to be present in the lives of your preschoolers? We would love to hear them. Remember. Sharing is caring!