How To Start A Strong Small Group Program

6 Steps That Will Build A Solid and Scalable Foundation

Small groups work.  They are where life change happens.  Small groups are the place where teens form life long relationships.  Small groups are the reason teenager will come back.  That’s if you do them right.

While there is a lot of great small group content available it’s not always clear how to build the program. If you are looking to start or adjust a current small group ministry you need to make sure you:

FORM A PLANNING TEAM

Before you start anything new make sure you aren’t on your own.  Form a team that can help you troubleshoot problems, research content and offer encouragement.

Find people who are on board with your youth ministry’s overall vision.  These are people you trust and are willing to listen to their advice.

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

Before you begin a small group program you need to know it’s purpose.  Sit down with your planning team and discuss what you would like a small group to accomplish.  Will they:

  • Help teenagers form healthy Christ-like relationships.
  • Connect with parents on a regular basis.
  • Plug the next generation into service opportunities.
  • Go through scripture and church doctrine.

While they can cover many things, make sure you know their primary purpose or else it will be easy to make them more messy than they need to be.

PLACE A PRIORITY ON STRUCTURE OVER CONTENT

What you want teenagers to know is important, but don’t make it a priority over how you will share it with them.  If your small group program doesn’t have a strong structure it won’t matter the curriculum you use.

I recommend small groups should be:

  • Made up of teens of the same grade and gender.
  • Lead by two adult leaders.
  • Composed of 6-8 teenagers.
  • Meeting on a weekly basis.

That’s what’s worked for us; however, you will need to make adjustments for your audience and limitations.  In the end create the structure or else one will be created for you and it won’t be strong.

SET A TIMELINE

The goal is to go year round and meet weekly; however, that can be cumbersome.  Instead create a timeline that will make sure you make the tweaks and adjustments to eventually grow the program.  In your timeline make sure you schedule:

  • Recruiting and preparing leaders.
  • Registration and sign ups.
  • The actual running of the groups.
  • Time for review and feedback.

When you have a timeline set out it allows you to create a healthy pace.  You will give your team direction and clarity on what has to get done.  A timeline also serves as accountability that you will move forward with groups.

IDENTIFY A SMALL GROUP LEADER

Once you understand where you want to lead teenagers you need to know who is going to take them there.  You want to make sure you have small group leaders with the same end in mind.

When beginning it’s important to have an interview process.  Finding the right people at the beginning is essential because it will give you a healthy foundation and start the culture you want.

Over time you can move from an interview process to an apprenticing one.  If the culture is healthy and strong it will impact future leaders in the way that you hope. (For more on small group leaders read HERE)

START SMALL

The temptation is to encourage as many teenagers to join as possible.  The problem is your structure hasn’t been tested.  Big numbers can make something simple instantly complicated.

Don’t worry about the numbers.  Look at starting with 2-4 groups.  Start with a personal invitation to make sure the right leaders and teenagers are on board. Your goal is to create a healthy foundation.

Building a healthy small group program takes times, patience and a lot of learning. Don’t be afraid of turnover at the beginning and stay persistent.  Make note of what you learn and adjust along the way.

When you build a strong small group culture you build a community that teens will want to join.  It’s through small groups where you start to build a movement.

Question:  What is a characteristic of a healthy small group?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

For more on small groups I recommend:

Lead Small Five Big Ideas Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know by Reggie Joiner

Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church A Place Where Kids Belong by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy and Elle Campbell

Small Groups From Start to Finish: 10 Steps to Launch and Maintain Healthy Small Groups by Doug Fields