Lots of relationships in life come without a manual. How exactly do people learn to…
· Be a good spouse?
· A good student?
· A good parent?
· A good coffee-shop customer?
Without any instruction, you can wonder “am I doing this right?” And just like all of those, it can be hard to know how to relate to your kid’s small group leader (SGL).
What do you say?
Do you offer to show up?
Is that weird?
The truth is, having a good relationship with your kid’s leader is tricky. It will look different at every age, with every kid, and with every leader. But, as a long-time SGL, I can tell you there are a few tricks to making sure that relationship is a good one.
1. Introduce yourself. Let’s just be honest. Meeting people is awkward. None of us are good at it. And on top of that, meeting a parent can be really intimidating, especially if you aren’t a parent yourself. That’s why one of the kindest things you can do for your kid’s SGL is take the pressure off by introducing yourself first. Ask for coffee. Shoot them a text. However you do it, your kid’s leader will be grateful you made the first move.
2. Ask questions without questioning. Not everything your kid’s small group does will make sense. If they’re little, they may come home smelling like glue and still shaking off the glitter. If they’re older, you may pick them up from camp with a bad attitude, a sleepy face, and the distinct smell of Doritos and energy drinks. So it’s natural to wonder what in the WORLD that group is doing. And good news…it’s okay to ask! Most of the time your SGL wishes you knew just how much is going on in your kid’s small group and how they’re growing. But just like every question, tone is key. Even if you aren’t sure a small group activity was wise or helpful, try to ask questions about what happened and why beforeasking questions like, “what were you thinking?”. Listen, nobody becomes an SGL because they want to hurt kids. Even if they make mistakes, the person leading your kid’s group is pouring out a lotof their time and energy and attention because they love your kid. And that alone is a good reason to assume the best intentions, even while asking about something that doesn’t make sense.
3. Honor the relationship.Your SGL is not your kid’s playmate. They’re your kid’s leader. Chances are they’ve been through some training on working with kids this age. As a leader, they handle a lot of responsibility both for the physical safety and the spiritual health of a whole group of kids. And even if they’re younger than you—by a lot, even if your kid’s SGL is just a teenager themselves—to your kid they are a trusted adult. And it’s important to talk TO them and ABOUT them that way. In doing so, you not only build trust with the leader (after all, nobody wants to be talked down to), but you also teach your child that their leader is a trustworthy person and what they’re saying matters.
4. Say thanks.Is there anything better than a thank-you note? Why, yes. Yes there is. It’s called a gift card. Especially as your kid gets older, their leader may be investing more than you realize in their future. Giving rides, showing up every week, taking vacation days to go to camp, and more vacation days for weekend retreats, staying up to answer late-night texts, and showing up at sporting events all come at a price. So why not refill their (coffee, gas, emotional) tank with a thank-you note and a gift card?
5. Offer to help.The mantra of a great small-group leader is “make it happen”. But making the magic of small group happen is far easier when someone comes alongside you to offer rides, make snacks, host the overnight, plan the service project, or organize and communicate with the other parents. If you aren’t sure what to offer, simply send your kid’s leader the list above and says something like this, “Hey, I read this article that said these were some ways to help out your kid’s small group leader. Would any of those be helpful to you? If so, I’m happy to jump in!”. Even if the leader says they have everything covered, they will appreciate you asking.