Building a small group ministry is no joke.
You will have to cross a ton of hurdles to encourage people to join a small group.
The people in your church are probably thinking:
Will I get along with anyone?
Why should I join a small group?
Is this the right thing to do?
In all of the challenges you’ll face in your small group ministry, one of the most significant is figuring out what you’ll do for childcare. Not having childcare figured out ahead of time can cause your ministry to falter or fail.
When parents or guardians join a small group, the first thing they need to figure out is childcare. If you can take care of this concern for them, then you’re well on your way to creating a solid foundation.
3 small group childcare guiding principles
Before sharing different childcare options, I’d like to talk about a few principles.
1 – Childcare doesn’t mean any children
Providing childcare for your small group doesn’t mean you can’t welcome children.
It’s a good idea to invite children to participate at different times.
In general, it’s beneficial for children to see their parents or guardians in community—to experience a taste of life in Christ. From having children join your group for opening prayers to leading an integrated family meeting a few times a year, find ways to include children in your group.
2 – Childcare should be in a different room
It’s ideal to have children in a different room during the small group meeting.
I’m not talking about infants or breastfeeding babies—but more of a general rule of thumb.
If children are visible, it's difficult for group members to focus on what’s being discussed and the nature of your conversations will be limited. By having children in a different room or part of the house, you’ll be able to create an environment for your members to relax and talk.
3 – Be safe
As a small group leader, you’ll need to follow your church’s policies for children safety.
If your church doesn’t have established guidelines, The Church at Brook Hills recommends these best practices for safety:
- Have at least two people with kids—preferably not a married couple
- Make sure the area is safe
- Randomly check on the kids every 15–30 minutes
- Provide childcare training
- Provide background checks—if possible
- Be aware of allergies among the children
- Clarify expectations
- Provide structure
- Share contact information
With these three guiding principles in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more popular childcare options for small groups.
#1 – Get a babysitter
Providing a babysitter for your small group is one of the easiest ways to handle childcare.
A reputable and reliable babysitter will help the members of your group feel comfortable, be present, and to focus on what’s going on.
When finding a babysitter, start with your church first. There’s a chance your church has a list of preferred babysitters.
Does your church not have a list or referrals?
Connect with the members of your small group to pool together a list of potential babysitters. Whoever you choose, just make sure they’re able to handle a crowd of kids and that they are reliable.
Speaking of reliability, be sure to check if your babysitters have transportation or if a member of your small group needs to give them a ride.
To ensure your babysitter is attentive, it’s best to pay him or her for their services. As a group, you can share the cost or ask a few members to pitch in more to help out other members who may be in financial need (again, you don’t want childcare to be a burden).
If the small group is a church ministry, see if your church is open to reimbursing childcare expenses. For your church to do this, it’s best if they set a weekly limit and make it easy.
Here are three examples of this practice from different churches:
Here’s the last thing to note about babysitters:
Give the members of your group the flexibility to find their own babysitters. Many parents and guardians are comfortable with their own babysitters for different reasons. Make sure they have this option.
#2 – Rotate group members
Your small group can take turns providing childcare.
There are a few pros to this option:
- It’s free
- It gives members an opportunity to serve
- It provides an opportunity for adults to build relationships with children
To do this, all you need to do is create a schedule, let people pick dates, and be flexible. As you know, with children, plans can easily change when someone is sick or a school or athletic event comes up. So, you’ll need to be flexible.
If you can, have at least two men or two women help out in the same evening. As I shared above, this is not only safe—it also helps members share the load and build relationships with each other.
#3 – Alternate weeks
Another unique idea to consider is to schedule alternate weeks your group meets.
Let me explain.
During the course of the month, you can schedule a time for everyone to be together and another time for the men and women of the group to meet separately. So your schedule would look something like this:
- Week 1: Everyone
- Week 2: Men
- Week 3: Women
- Week 4: Break
During the evening when only the men or women meet, the idea is that their spouses will watch their children when the other is attending.
This model provides an opportunity for the men and women to explore topics in-depth, and it can lead to forming deeper relationships.
But, if you noticed, this still creates a need for childcare when everyone is in attendance. So you're back to the drawing board with finding a babysitter or rotating childcare.
How do you provide childcare?
There you have it.
Three popular ways you can provide childcare for your small group:
- Get a babysitter
- Rotate group members
- Alternate weeks
Has your small group used one of these options? Is there a different option you’ve found to be successful? Share your experience in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.