It’s what we all want to see, right? Growth in our children’s ministry. But now, you have moved to the model of the consistent Small Group. One leader, assigned to a specific group, for an entire school year (but praying they choose to stay with the kids through their whole elementary school journey, or at least on your team for years and years). So, what does it now mean for the new children who are coming to your church, and specifically to your children’s ministry environment? How do you transition them into a Small Group?
One of the determining factors in how you do this will be the number of visitors you are seeing each week. We want to be sure visiting children feel comfortable and welcomed. We want them to walk away and think, in a kid’s way of course, “They were expecting me to be there today.” So, how can we best accomplish this with the number of visitors who walk into our ministry environments each week? AND how do we mesh this well with our existing Small Groups?
One option is a “welcome group.” Ministries have come up with clever names for these groups that are much more clever than “welcome” or “visitor’s” group, and I think this is a great idea. Please come up with a less generic name for the group! If you are seeing enough visitors each week to form a group with “critical mass” (five or more kids by age groups that make sense for your ministry), then the idea of this separate group for your visitors may be a fantastic option. Have a leader designated to receive these children. Someone who is gifted in making kids feel welcomed, included, comfortable. Set a direct path into an assigned Small Group. Options could be when a parent actually registers the child into your ministry rather than signing them up as a “visitor” or if the child visits for four Sundays, on the fifth they are moved to an assigned group.
If you are not having enough visitors each week to make a group comfortable for the children (nothing is as bad to a kid than feeling singled out!), then it will be better to place the visitor in with a regular group. As a part of training, have conversations with Small Group Leaders about how you are going to help assimilate visitors to a group. Most groups will also have a child who has a special gift for making others feel welcome. The Small Group Leader can employ this child as the one to help the visiting child navigate the morning schedule.
In either scenario, do the simple things like having the kids in the group introduce themselves to the visitor or each other (if “visitor’s” group). If you use nametags, have visitors’ nametags look the same. Take the time to think about what is going to feel comfortable and welcoming to a CHILD. You want them to have such a great experience that they ask their parents to bring them back the next week!
This post was originally published on our 252 Basics Blog on May 15: http://252blog.com/2012/05/15/transitioning-new-kids-into-small-groups/