Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing on the topic of children and Missional Communities. Specifically, I’ve shared suggestions on how families can be successful at each of three different types of gatherings:
- Gathering as a community in a Family Meal
- Gathering as disciples in Life Transformation Groups, or LTGs
- Gathering as missionaries in a Third Place
These three gatherings are what we ask our Missional Communities at The Austin Stone to participate in. Not all three need to happen on a weekly basis, but we believe they should all be practiced regularly. To see thoughts on each of these gatherings, click the links above.
Many groups struggle to include children in their Missional Community meeting times because they are not practicing the types of gatherings that I describe in the posts linked above. Often, groups that call themselves Missional Communities are primarily Bible studies or book studies, where members sit in a circle and discuss a given topic or passage. I agree, it is very hard to incorporate children into a Bible study or book study meeting time. But you may have noticed that doing a group study like this is conspicuously absent from the rhythms I’ve described.
What About Bible Studies?
“What about Bible studies?” is one of the questions I hear most often when describing how children can be included in the life of a Missional Community. I think Bible and book studies are great. Diving deep into God’s Word or reading a great Christian book as a group are good ways to grow in knowledge and in sanctification. However, I don’t believe that these types of meetings are best practiced in large groups of ten to twenty people. What usually ends up happening in groups this size is that only a few people are active in the conversation. The others are silent participants.
LTGs are Great Environments for Study
Instead of doing Bible or book studies as a large group, why not do them in an LTG? Here are some benefits of doing a study in a group of two or three people:
- Everyone gets to participate in the discussion.
- Group members are more likely to be honest about something they struggle to understand or apply in a smaller, trusted group of people.
- There is accountability to apply what is learned rather than simply learning new information. And that is extremely important, because the goal is to obey all that Christ has commanded, not just to know all that he has commanded (Matthew 28:20).
Click to tweet: The goal is to obey all that Christ has commanded, not just to know it. @johnmurk
Do Large Group Studies for a Limited Time
There may be times when your group all feels the need to do a book or Bible study together. If the entire Missional Community is desiring to learn more about a certain topic, such as social justice or adoption, then setting aside a few weeks to read a book together is a good idea. Or perhaps the group feels led to grow in the knowledge of a certain book of the Bible. By all means, take a few weeks to follow that leading, but don’t do it indefinitely. Set aside a specific number of weeks for the study, and then go back to other types of gatherings that are more kid-friendly.
During the Bible or book study meetings, you will probably need to arrange childcare in order to get the most out of that time. As a community, think through your options for caring for the children well during this season. One option is to pool your money together and hire some sitters to watch the kids at one of the group members’ houses. You could also talk to your church about meeting during a time when childcare is available, such as a second service hour, a Wednesday evening gathering, or a Sunday school hour.
Your church may even periodically offer classes or studies that your group could participate in together. At The Austin Stone, we offer two different “semesters” of classes on many various topics, and we encourage groups to take the classes together. Because childcare is usually offered when classes are offered, this could be a great way to learn together as a group for a period of time.
Next week, I’ll discuss another common question I hear when discussing kids and Missional Communities – “What do I do when my group doesn’t want my kids around?”