Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). But sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do with them when Small Group night rolls around. There is not one golden solution for how to take care of kids during your Small Group gathering, but there are a number of options that you can consider for your group:
- Have each family provide their own childcare. When parents figure out their own childcare, this frees up the Small Group Leader to focus on setting up gathering times for adults. This may be especially helpful if there is only one or two couples who need childcare in the group or if the host home is small. Usually this means that parents find and pay for their own babysitter, or they have another parent drop off kids at their house and the two families split the cost of the babysitter.
- Provide childcare as a group. Doing this can help cut costs for off-site childcare (instead of each family paying for an individual babysitter). Or this allows parents to bring their kids with them for on-site childcare. Sometimes the combined childcare may be at a separate house from where the adults gather.
- Allow infants in the group discussion time. Children who are young enough to fit in a lap can be accommodated by a discerning parent during adult discussion time. Sometimes grandparent age Small Group members can enjoy playing with the little one(s) as well. This also provides good exposure and a shepherding opportunity for those without kids who might get a bit annoyed. Parents do need to be sensitive to this and take crying, fussy kids to another room (or possibly have one or both spouses stay home one night if the child has an ear infection, etc.).
- Consider having older children watch the younger children. One blessing of a multigenerational church family is having siblings and/or other children and teens from families in the same Small Group help take care of each other. Make sure to assess the responsibility of whatever child or teen is watching others, and make sure all families involved are on board with that structure.
- Men watch kids or women watch kids. If your group sometimes meets separately in Men’s and Women’s gatherings, consider having the men watch the children on the women’s gathering nights, and vice versa.
- Members sit out to watch (as a last resort). In extreme cases where no other good childcare options are presenting themselves, it may work to have one couple (or single) watch the kids on-site. This responsibility would need to rotate, so that no one becomes excluded from the adult gathering discussion. Be careful to not permanently implement this option since it can feel like the whole group never all meets together (because someone is always gone watching children).
There should be opportunities to have kids involved with the larger group, like Small Group dinners and events together. But allowing adults to have protected intimate time together where they can be vulnerable and transparent in discussion and prayer is worth preserving. And meanwhile, you can determine how to wisely and safely care for children in another space. As you grow together as a Small Group community, different solutions may work better in different seasons, and some combinations may be helpful as well.