by Rebecca Simmons
Four years ago, I remember wrapping up an amazing week of VBS with outstanding worship, incredible volunteer leaders, mind-blowing decorations and of course, awesome kids. But, I clearly remember the moment when God laid the question on my heart, “Did every child leave here KNOWN and have a sense of BELONGING?” When I looked over each classroom of 25 children with 4 adults, I realized the answer was NO! We have stellar volunteer leaders, but in the classroom setting where they team taught, the challenges were clear. It was hard to know, REALLY know each child and how God is working in their lives when my leaders were responsible for 25 kids. Here at Westside, our two non-negotiables in Family Ministry are SHARING THE GOOD NEWS and BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS! This was our whole point of VBS, and we were missing the mark! We had the appropriate leader to student ratio, but the classroom setting was not conducive to every child being KNOWN by peers and leaders!
As our team prayed over this dilemma, we had no doubt that creating small groups was the solution! I am excited that this will be our third year of KidsGiG (VBS with a twist) and our Small Group Leaders are without a doubt the MVPs of the entire week. We encourage our Small Group Leaders to begin praying over the kids who will be in their group as soon as they say “Yes” to leading.
Here are a few tips to set your Small Group Leaders up to WIN:
Connect kids together | Allow kids to request a specific friend or leader. Relationships are key to a small group time being successful. This is an area that can be very challenging, but when you prayerfully begin placing each child into a group, you are helping their sense of community and belonging. On the other hand, encourage your Small Group Leaders to be INTENTIONAL about asking new children to share about themselves and find things that they have in common with others.
Communicate clearly | Make sure your Small Group Leaders know who to contact if they have any questions. We use a coach model! Love, love, love this! Our coaches (experienced ministry volunteer leader) are each assigned approximately five small group leaders to shepherd and encourage before, during and after KidsGiG. This is a way we can multiply ourselves. WIN! Our job as staff is to give our coaches all the information they will need for the week ahead of time in a concise and clear way. Make sure to include a map of the event, schedules, policies & procedures, lessons and where the supplies will be located. The coaches then have the tools to lead their Small Group Leaders and set them up to win!
Have fun | Encourage your leaders to look for ways to create a sense of team. This can be a team name, cheer, team color, etc.. However you choose to do this, it’s a great way for the kids to identify with their group. I can already picture a group of boys as the Blue Man Group! Ha! They will remember these moments forever!
Encourage kids to pray | Ask your leaders to challenge their kids to pray together and for each other. As they begin to share prayer requests throughout the week they will begin to see how they can encourage each other and what God means when he says to “love one another.”
Help kids take their next steps | Empower your volunteer leaders to help identify some next steps for the kids in their group. You could even make a list of possible next steps that are age appropriate to help generate some ideas. For some kids that may mean inviting them to come back the following Sunday, or to let them know that you see a talent or gift that you know God wants them to use, or maybe you get to share with their parents that their child says they are ready to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior! Woot! It doesn’t get any better than that!
Help leaders take their next steps | Encourage leaders to touch base with their small group after VBS is over by email or mail. Ask them to pray about leading a group each Sunday or helping them plug into an area they feel passionate about – even if it isn’t family ministry! Yep, I said it! We are the body of Christ, and it takes all parts to work together for His glory.
KidsGiG is by far my favorite week of the year and that is greatly due to small groups and the heart of each Small Group Leader. They truly are the MVPs of KidsGiG! As I walk throughout our building, I see EVERY child connected and they are KNOWN! They have heard the Good News and built relationships!
Check out the BRAND NEW VBS offering from Orange for 2016 – WALK THIS WAY! Your kids will take a journey with Paul and ask the same questions he asked – making some incredible discoveries along the way!
Rebecca Simmons is the Kids’ Ministry Director at Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas. She has a background in education and holds a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Rebecca’s passions are to reach kids and families for Him and develop strong leaders. She and her husband, Brandon, have two children, Landry and Brock.
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