Rule #1: Be Respectful
This rule is broad enough to cover 90% of anything that might happen in your small group. Let’s look at a few examples:
Example #1: Dillon starts talking with some of the kids during your storytelling time. “Dillon, are you being respectful right now?” While he might try to weasel his way out of this one, the obvious answer is no. He is not being respectful to you because by talking he is indirectly saying that your words are not important enough to listen to. Additionally, he is not being respectful to the kids around him because he is distracting them from hearing the Big God Story.
Example #2: Maria isn’t sharing the crayons. She found her favorite color in the basket, and is unwilling to let the other kids use it. “Maria, are you being respectful right now?” Remember, respect is more than just refraining from doing mean things, it’s also a positive action. Maria is not being respectful to the kids around her because she is not sharing supplies.
The main question to ask kids in reference to this rule is, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” Anyone can relate to this question, and it’s often the very thing that brings the “aha” moment, when they realize the weight of their actions and the need to change.
Rule #2: Be Responsible
I know what you’re thinking. “But Jeremy, that’s kind of a big word for the kids in my 2nd Grade small group.”
You’re right. Responsibility is a big word, and your 2nd Grader probably doesn’t know what it means. Yet.
Our job as small group leaders is not simply to give kids what they can handle, but to help them learn how to handle more. Take advantage of this opportunity to teach your kids what the words “respectful” and “responsible” mean. (See Part 3 on Friday for practical ways to apply this in your small group.)
Now that we’ve moved past the size of the word, what does it actually mean for my kids?
Example #1: Jake is running through the halls in the B Building. “Jake, are you being responsible right now?” (I could also ask Jake if he’s being respectful of the people around him. What if there is a small group going on and the noise of his running is a distraction?) By running in the halls, Jake is putting his safety at risk because he could fall and get hurt. Even worse, he could run into someone else coming around a corner and get them hurt. Long story short, Jake isn’t being responsible.
Example #2: Sarah apologizes for saying something mean to one of the other kids in the small group. “Sarah, that was very responsible of you!” By owning that she did something wrong and taking the initiative to make it right, Sarah was showing a great deal of responsibility.
So that’s it?
Two rules. Four words. That’s all you need!
As you can see, the two rules work hand in hand with each other. You can’t have one without the other. The combination provides a solid foundation for growth and a healthy environment.
But remember, rules aren’t solely for discipline, they’re also meant to serve as guidelines and expectations. When you see your kids being respectful or being responsible, it’s your job to affirm them. By affirming their actions, you are encouraging their actions. “What gets appreciated, gets repeated.” Even better, you are subtly discouraging the negative form of those rules. Everybody wins when you affirm positive behavior.