Thursday, June 11, 2009

...mixed message...

This article about Early Childhood: small groups came from Kidology's Blog Watch. Instead of a long-winded comment, here is a post.

This is a really exciting article. I was so excited to read this.

In the same breath, having said that, the more I read the more deeply it grieved me that giving these little people individual focus and attention in small groups is something new for the Church.

I am very out of the loop but from my perspective, in a room of 20 babies, toddlers or preschoolers any and every adult who loves on or interacts with a child - holds them, works with them, helps them, listens to them, attends to their needs - is growing a relationship whether they be leader, caregiver, or teen helper. When the grown up who spends the most time with that child has praise or concerns, (hopefully) they interact with and share them with child and parent. When a child has a birthday, every adult in the room can wish them a Happy Birthday. If you want to do more, Mom can bring in a special snack and everybody can celebrate. It saves the time and money of sending a card that will probably end up in the trash can, anyway. Not that you can't send cards. What will mean the most to the child and his parents?

If human families were created in such a way that children are usually born one or two at a time, usually 1-2 years apart, what does that say about small group vs large group design for little ones? What does that say about child/adult ratios and relationships? Even a grandmother or aunt with 3-5 grandchildren, nieces or nephews will probably not have more than 4 or 5 the same age.

But who will give up their own time for one small child? Who will give up their own teaching time to supervise and care for 3-4 little ones? 5-8? 10-15? The smaller the groups, the more grown-ups you need and the more adults you pull from other things but the better the care, attention, and relationships for these little people. The larger the groups, the fewer adults you pull away from those important grown-up activities, the harder the job, the less personal and more managerial the task becomes. The more children per grown-up, the less personal and more managerial the environment becomes for the kids. For children and for the caregivers, babysitting en masse. For the kids who love groups and playing with the other kids, no big deal. If you can design a room with 4-5 activity stations/4-5 kids at a station you can also create small groups in the context of a large group. Teachers taking on a small group leader role - isn't that what we've been doing all along in age appropriate ways? Or am I the odd man out?

Is it a question of finding enough gifted, talented, willing volunteers or is that just an excuse? I would like to propose that how an organization cares for it's weakest members and where they put their resources (not just money but people) speaks loudly about that organization's priorities and ultimately the priorities of it's people.

I so hate it when the business of church gets in the way of loving people and caring for people (especially children). But...despite my griping about the long tangled paths we seem to need to take to get where we're going (and I may be very ill-informed griping like this) . . .Instead of wasting time and energy griping about how we got where we're going. . . we inevitably learn as we go. . . it's a really good article! Exciting stuff out there.

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