Monday, June 28, 2010

Vision for Preschool Small Groups

Our Preschool Ministry (from 2 year olds to kindergarten) is our largest program during our weekend services for all of Children's & Student Ministries.  On an average weekend, we have about 350 preschoolers in Small Groups on Saturday night & Sunday morning, counting all 6 services.  Being such a large population at Grace Church, and being such a crucial phase in a child's spiritual, emotional, social, and physical development, we recently spent some time discussing and outlining our goals and vision for our Preschool Small Groups.  Here are our thoughts.

Goals.  What do we want to accomplish through Preschool Small Groups?
  1. To teach who God is.  The focus of our volunteer-written curriculum for this age group is the attributes of God, and we want to teach these Biblical truths in a fun and meaningful way.
  2. To model community and the value of relationships.  We intentionally use the term "Small Groups" (instead of "Sunday School" or "classes") because we want to emphasize the importance of consistent relationships, whether between children themselves or with children and their Small Group Leaders.
  3. To equip and assist parents and volunteers.  This is achieved through:
    • Tools, such as this blog, take-home Parent Page, Volunteer Central website, and so on.
    • Opportunities to serve, to use the resources and gifts that God has given them.
    • Utilizing students as helpers, which is a way to equip two generations for a life in Christ.
    • Shepherding, such as through our volunteer Coaching structure.
  4. To provide a safe and secure environment where children feel comfortable and parents are free to attend adult worship without distractions.

Applications.  What are some ways we are working towards achieving these goals?
  1. Teaching
    • We have continued to develop and revise the template we use for our Small Group Lessons, to make it easy for volunteers to use.
    • Adding additional activities to the lessons, to give the leaders more than enough material to help them engage their Small Group.
    • We are exploring adding questions to the lessons that help connect Big Group and Small Group times.
    • One area that we know that we need to develop is with two- and three-year-olds who stay for 2 services.  These children stay in the same classroom and do the same material, which can be a little monotonous at times.  It affects a small number of children (less than 20 each week), but an area that we want to give more attention to.
  2. Community
    • For most areas, especially on Sunday morning on the Pelham Road campus (where we have multiple small groups per age-group), we try to group children together based on if their parents are serving; this grouping helps with moving children to and from Quest.  Furthermore, the children who come more regularly (because, of course, their parents are regular) have the great opportunity to develop deeper relationships.
    • We want to communicate with parents that there is a deep and lasting value in consistent community.  Of course, children cannot control how regularly they attend their programming; for the most part, parents control the development of their children's community.  For a child who stays for two services (because his parents serve) and attends almost every weekend, he will be with his "community" twice as long and twice as often as most of our adult community groups meet.
  3. Equipping
    • We are continually updating our Volunteer Central web page, which gives ministry descriptions and volunteer biographies from different people each month.
    • We recently revised our Parent Page, to include a summary of the crafts and Big Group skit, to go along with the Small Group lesson summary.  
    • We want to regularly update our iMix, to include recent songs we sing in our Preschool Big Group time. 
  4. Safety
    • We have developed and readily-available Safety Plans for all 3 campuses.
    • We run background checks on our regular Small Group leaders, and last year we began to run national checks, not just local.
    • We have staff and volunteer Coaches who check on the rooms during the service (we have windows next to each door in our buildings to allow full view of the classroom).  

 Thoughts or questions about our vision for our Preschool Small Groups?

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