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Small Group Structure: 3 Effective Ways to Organize for Youth Ministry

small group structure

No matter your small group structure, these meetings are an important part of effective student ministry. Small groups move students past just showing up at youth group every week and listening to you teach. They move teens to a place where they can better develop community with their peers (and an adult leader or two) as well going deeper into God’s Word.

These two factors, community and Bible study, help kids grow in their faith. This is what we want as student pastors. We want students to develop community and dig deeper into God’s Word.

So we make small groups part of our student ministry. But what small group structure should we use? Do we meet in homes? Do we incorporate small groups into our midweek or weekend gathering? And do we open them up for everyone or just for teens who want to go deeper? These are all good questions for assessing small group structure.

Recently we restructured our small groups, and we’re planning more tweaks soon. So I’ve been pondering our ministry’s small group structure. I’ve also been talking to other student pastors about their approaches.

You can structure small groups in many different ways. No one format is perfect. Every student ministry looks different, and small groups look different in every ministry. However, I’ve been part of three different structures of small groups in student ministries that I believe are effective. Let me share those with you.

3 Small Group Structure Ideas That Work

1. Small groups in homes of adult leaders outside your normal midweek or weekend program. 

By far, this is the most popular way to structure small groups in student ministry. Basically, students meet in small groups in leaders’ homes throughout the community. It could be on the same night or different nights. Leaders open up their homes, and students in their small groups meet there to build community and study the Bible. This happens outside your normal “youth group night.”

The positives to this structure?

  • Small groups are there as a “next step” for students who want to go deeper.
  • You don’t force into a small group students who may not be Christians or who aren’t ready to go deeper.
  • Your large group gathering serves as a place for non-Christians to feel comfortable and hear the Gospel.
  • Students feel safe and comfortable as they meet in a home.
  • Adult leaders get to display hospitality and fellowship by opening their homes to students.

The major downside of this structure? You’re asking students to give up another night of the week. They’re already coming to your large group gathering, and now you ask them to give up another night for small groups. For busy students, this may be difficult and prevent them from getting involved in a small group.

2. Small groups every other week in place of a midweek or weekend program. 

We’re currently using this format with  middle and high school students. But soon we’ll be keeping it just for middle schoolers. This is a great structure if you want to see all students participate in a form of small groups.