I’ve been both a small group leader and a small group goer. I’ve been a non-mom grouper and am now a mom grouper. So if you’re a small group leader who is not a mom, or if kids are creatures that make you uncomfortable, I get it.
But here’s the thing. If you hold the title of small group leader, unless you’re leading a student group or a men’s group, chances are your group will contain moms. Moms have a unique set of needs. They function not just as small group members but as small group members with entourages that are very much part of every part of their lives.
So here are a few things to keep in mind when leading and interacting with the moms in your group:
1. Loving My Kids = Loving Me
Before I had kids, I avoided kids. They made me nervous. I didn’t know what to say to them, and I’d always guess that they were five to ten years older or younger than they actually were.
“How old are you… six? Oh, sorry! Thirteen! So…you’re into…like…Barney or something?”
That was me. But now I’m a mom, so I can tell you, whether or not you are a kid person, how you interact with (or don’t interact with) my kids is of extreme importance to me. I, a former non-kid person, have an extra measure of grace when non-kid people ignore my children, but I’d be lying if I said that how someone treats my kid doesn’t directly affect how I feel about that person.
As a small group leader, try to give some attention to the kids in your group.
- Don’t make fun of them or use sarcasm (kids are very literal).
- Learn their names.
- Remember their birthdays.
- Be nice to them.
- Ask them what they’re into.
When people pay attention to my daughters, or comment about them being cute on Facebook, or ask them what they got for their birthdays, it gives me major love surges for those people. Moms in your group will be much more likely to follow you as a leader (and stay in your group) if you love their kids well.
2. Wait Until I Ask Before Offering Parenting Advice
Apply this to your small group, and also maybe to all of life. Parenting is an extremely important thing, so understandably, most moms are extremely serious about the way they do it. If you ever want to see an actual mommy melee, just casually ask how everyone feels about co-sleeping, toddler sugar quotas, or nursing in public. Someone will definitely end up in the hospital.
Your job as a small group leader isn’t to convince Mommy Smith that it’s about time her toddler kicks his pacifier habit. Your job is to pray that the gospel will grow and shape each mom, dad, and non-parent in your group into the likeness of Jesus more each day. Co-sleeping and bottle feeding are not top-tier issues, so just respect each individual’s parenting style and don’t dole out advice about screen time or sugar consumption unless you are asked.
3. Think Kid-Friendly
Moms are in small groups for the same reason everyone else in your group is there. They want to live in obedience by doing life with other believers. They want to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and be part of a Christ-centered community. But there’s another reason moms are in small groups. Moms want their kids to see the gospel lived out and advanced, too.
As a mom, I’m always requesting/looking for/hoping my group will be involved in kid-friendly service projects. When I’m in a group brainstorming ways to serve the city, I’m always thinking, What kind of environment could I bring my kids into, where they will be able to serve and see Jesus with me? School renovation projects where you go help teachers fix up their classrooms and retirement homes are great places to bring kids. As a leader, factor the moms into your service plans. If your group wants to minister in an environment where a mom in your group doesn’t want to bring her kids, be proactive in thinking of ways she can be involved even if she’s not there. Maybe she and her kids could prepare the food or write letters. Moms will appreciate options like this, as every mom will have a different idea about where she wants her kids to be/not be. Be mindful of a mom’s unique perspective, and she will love you forever.
Scarlet Hiltibidal is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. Scarlet has a degree in biblical counseling and worked as a Christian schoolteacher before she started writing. She has written for and managed various online publications. Currently, she writes children’s small group curriculum and articles on motherhood for Smart Mom. Scarlet is wife to Brandon, who is part of the Groups Ministry Team at Lifeway, and Mommy to her daughters, Ever Grace and Brooklyn Hope. Visit her blog at scarlethiltibidal.com and follow her on Twitter @ScarletEH.