In my first year of youth ministry I did something I rarely advise first time youth ministers to do. I MADE A BOLD MOVE. When I began in youth ministry our middle school groups were divided up by grade; however, boys and girls were in the same small groups. I never saw anything wrong with it until I started talking to fellow youth ministers who had groups divided by grade and gender. That very next year I made the move to same sex and same age small groups. You would have thought from teens (And some leaders) reactions that I had asked them to light themselves on fire.
Small groups are powerful and they are also personal.
The first challenge youth ministers face is forming and recruiting teens for small groups; however, the next (And bigger) challenge is keeping them healthy. To keep a small group healthy it needs to have VISION and SUPPORT from the youth minister. You also need to:
KEEP THEM SMALL:
If your small groups are attractive and engaging chances are teens will want to invite their friends. This is great if you are only adding 1 or 2 teens to a group of 6-8. Once your group starts getting beyond 12 teens you should look at either splitting the group into two or taking new teens and forming their own group. Either way YOU WILL FACE PUSH BACK. To make the transition as smooth as possible make sure you:
- Give Teens and Leaders Vision Upfront
- Bring It Up To Them Ahead Of Time
- Walk Them Through The Transition
If you can multiply groups, you can grow groups. If you can grow groups you not only grow the church; however, display to students how they can be a part of the growth.
CHALLENGE LEADERS ON PERSONAL GROWTH:
Ideally you want your leaders participating in their own adult small group, reading scripture, involved in service and consistently inviting people to church. To empower them to embrace these habits you need to make sure that the stepping stones into these habits are clear and engaging. Don’t tell them to just read the Bible, give them resources and guide them.
GIVE LEADERS A STRUCTURE:
It’s easy for small groups to go from deep discipleship groups into social hangouts. To avoid this outcome you need to make sure you not only check in with leaders; but, empower them to stay on track with a structure. Too many times youth ministers rely on curriculum to keep small groups focused on Christ; however, if it’s not engaging keep the group focused will be a major challenge. A framework (i.e. pray together, grow together and pray for one another) will help your leaders ensure that the groups focus on Christ stays on track, even if the topic doesn’t.
To make sure your groups are focused on Christian fellowship and not just socialization give your leaders, the teens and groups the vision and resources they need to grow.
What are your thoughts on these steps? How do you keep small groups healthy?