Our vision for small groups is to have them off-campus in homes where they assume full ownership of all logistics for their group. This allows us to create an ever expanding circle of small groups out in the community. Childcare is always the "kicker" that makes it difficult for groups to do this. However, one thing we've found is that once a group makes the move off-campus, they experience a significant increase in the depth of their relationships. Most small group members perceive this is because “it’s just more intimate in a living room setting”. The reality is that because groups are forced to take full ownership of their group’s needs when they move off-campus, they end up growing closer to one another because of this. This is what gives group members that sense of “we really got close once we moved into a home”.
The challenge for a group as it moves off-campus then is the very thing that makes it grow deeper: Having to do "whatever it takes" to keep the group functioning in a healthy way builds deep bonds of trust. We know this is HARD to do but your group will not grow and form as God intends unless it embraces this reality and makes it happen! Let me challenge you to take the vision for our expanding small group ministry out into the community to heart. To help you with this challenge, I’ll provide you with some practical ways to handle one of the number one issues faced by groups when making this move: Childcare!
Remember that the early church had thousands of new believers join the church in a single day and they did not even have a central campus facility to meet at! They only had homes. Homes without running water, no electricity, no space for the kids, no age appropriate toys….not even an indoor bathroom! However, God manifested His church in this way so that it could expand and “take back” territory the enemy had captured: people enslaved to sin being brought to freedom in Christ with no limit in sight!
Regardless of how many people were converted to Christianity, the capacity to help them connect, grow, and serve in the new family of Christ was unlimited. All they needed was just one more house! This is the same vision Crossroads has for its small groups (see http://hstrial-jfrye.homestead.com/SG_Ministry_Vision.pdf).
we want to follow God’s direction for us as a “
1. The best approach is to have one to two folks from the group itself sign up each week to do childcare. If you have 6 couples (for example), this would only require two guys or two gals to sign up every six weeks to do childcare. This allows the group to get to know one another’s children, encourages serving one another, and is the most reliable form of care (you always have childcare workers available!).
2. Another option is to have group members provide names of sitters they use and then exhaust this list. This will provide the broadest age range you can get because group members will be able to “pick up” and “drop off” younger childcare workers that can’t drive yet. Also, the group will feel more comfortable with having sitters “someone in the group knows and has used before”.
3. I always encourage a group to have a “backup group member” signed up each week to do childcare anyway even if a paid sitter is coming just in case something happens and the sitter can’t be there. This way you don’t have to determine this “on the fly” one night if they sitter can’t make it.
4. A final option (I prefer to go with option #2 above vs. this one), is to have folks get their own sitters at home and only come as couples.
5. Also, be sure to have each child bring their own age appropriate toys, books, and videos with them. This eliminates the host home from having to try and gather age appropriate toys, etc… for a varied number of children. If each child takes care of their own activity needs, then all the children will get exactly what they need (and they can even learn to share with one another!).
6. This really works! If you have a high speed internet connection, watch this video that talks about small groups and has a good explanation of how #1 & #2 works effectively: Small Group Promo Video.
Note that with any of these options, you can also include your children in applicable portions of your small group meeting time such as worship, story telling, and prayer time. Each group handles their childcare as they feel led to do so. There is no specific way to do this. Keep trying various approaches until you find the one that works best for your group.
Here is a tool you can use to get input from your group members to help you decide which option is best for your small group: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=722942651736. You can cut and past this link (the one to the left in this document) into an e-mail and send it to your group members. Then e-mail John Frye and he will send you the results.
Don’t let this challenge discourage you! Small Groups have faced this challenge since the inception of the church in Acts! Embrace this as part of building true Christian community as God desires for all of us!