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missional communities with kidsDanielle has led or coached a number of missional communities with kids. Their current group, with a mix of couples and single moms, has an equal number of kids and adults, ranging in age from 4 to 68! Their group is very fruitful, in terms of local impact, drawing in unchurched families, and planting out new groups.

Here Danielle shares some of their successes and mistakes.

We made a lot of mistakes and did some down right dumb things when we first started our missional community. Some of them are probably common sense, but when we set out we had NO idea!!

20 Mistakes Made By Missional Communities With Kids

1.  We assumed only our family was busy with stuff.
For the first few months, which included November and December, we ended up burdening our families with extra stuff. For example, instead of just meeting one time a month, we added stress to everyone by trying to meet too often. Who really needs one more thing to do during the holidays? We learned if we were in a busy season, most families were too!

2.  We assumed that because people came with their kids, they knew how to disciple their kids.
That was not the case for everyone. We learned we needed to explain why kids are important, and that it is our responsibility to disciple our kids. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 is a great example for this.

3.  We didn’t leave any time for Q&A.
In the early stages of a missional community, adults have tons of questions and kids have even more! All the questions were good (well, mostly!), but we didn’t account for that and often over planned.

4.  We thought we were great time mangers.
When planning our gatherings with kids and families, we didn’t realize eating takes double the time, while discussion lasts about half the time you expected.

5.  We thought the adults would come up with all the serve ideas for our Missional Community.
The best service activities we have done were thought up by 6 year olds.

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6.  We thought having the kids with us 100% of the time would be something everyone liked.
We now try to have about 2-5 minute breaks where the kids can run and the adults can take a breather. Also we are very intentional about giving a 60 second preview of what we are doing next. This is so parents don’t feel so blind-sided.

7.  We didn’t think celebrating every holiday was a great idea.
Now we celebrate every holiday in some form or another. Valentines for people working in the wider community, bring a green side dish for Saint Patrick’s Day to share with our group, and so on. Kids can easily relate to any holiday because they talk about them in school. We celebrate the holiday sometimes by serving others, or sometimes just in our gathering times.

missional communities with kids

Serving teachers at the local elementary school

8.  We thought no one but believers wanted to help serve the school after hours.
Serving the elementary school is an open door for anyone to help. This is the way we actually have the most contact with non-believers in the community. Everyone wants to help their child’s teacher with a meal.

9.  Be mindful of bedtimes and school schedules.
This is one thing I think we have done well, and families have appreciated. We end in time for families to get home, unwind and get ready for bed. (I had to throw this one in here so you didn’t think we were totally nuts!)

10.  It’s all about us, us, us!
We don’t have to do it all. People are eager to jump in and help: bring the main dish for dinner, come up with a serving idea and actually do all the planning, or host the gathering at their house.

11.  We had to supply everything from bottles of water to paper plates and napkins.
Once we realize this, we had a birthday party for our missional community and everyone brought a gift that we could use at future gatherings. We received paper plates, cases of water, and silverware. Everyone was part of the celebration!

12.  We thought it wouldn’t be beneficial to bring leaders to learning opportunities, and we should definitely not bring kids.
Our first training retreat (for leaders of missional communities from across the whole church), we couldn’t find a baby sitter so we had no choice but to bring our children with us. Quickly we realized it was a great benefit to have them there. This was their group too. (And yes, they went to the food table a hundred times and got far too many snacks — but the value of what they added was well worth it!)

13.  We were frantically looking for our Person of Peace in our community.
We realized that our kids connected us with our Person of Peace. They open doors everywhere, from the ball field, to the school.

We realized that our kids best connected us with our Person of Peace Click To Tweet

14.  We had no plan for “Uncle Bob.”
You know what I mean — the person who is just a bit odd, someone who might freak out the kids, or others just think he is totally weird and after 5 minutes they can’t take anymore. Well “Bob” is great in small doses and we have lots of small jobs he can help with in all the rooms of the house so he keeps moving, and is really helpful. (For the record if you are in our Missional Community, this isn’t you we are talking about!!)

15.  We thought everyone knew how to handle their kids in public situations.
We really try to lead by example. Our kids are put in time out first, or we clearly explain out loud why they cannot pick up the dogs or stand on the furniture. We have found by not having the quiet conversation off to the side, others have learned that it is okay to discipline your kids outside of the home.

16.  We thought our own kids would only participate with us.
As we met more and more we mixed up families, this really helped others feel connected. Things are just more fun when you have an 8 year old with you who you adopted for the night.

17.  We thought all the kids would get along.
This is not the case — they are kids. We’ve had lots of tattling, and throwing of Lego blocks, and fighting. But we use even those situations to grow. Other adults get to talk the kids through their problems, we talk about how every day we need to be more like Jesus, and it does improve with time. Kids learn to respect each other.

18.  Our own kids would be totally ok with whatever we did.
This was really unfair of us to think that. At times it was difficult for our kids —broken toys, messy play room that they had to pick up, and feeling overwhelmed by the number of people in our house. Once we let them realize their opinion mattered, they felt better. For example, before we end for the night in our missional community, we have all the kids go to help tidy up the playroom. It sounds silly now, but our first thought had been that we shouldn’t ask others to help do this.

19.  We communicated by email because that was the most logical.
We use Facebook now, because people can celebrate, share pictures and give encouragement to others, and not worry about email addresses. Most families with kids are on Facebook already, and email was just one more thing to check.

20.  We didn’t want to let anyone go to do their own thing. We feared our group would fall apart.
The more we send people off to do what God has called them to do, the more people fill in through the back door. It has become a celebratory thing when others start their own missional community, giving a real sense of pride to the group as we see their impact for the Kingdom.

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What mistakes have you made with missional communities with kids?

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