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When Teen Small Groups Work Best

When it comes to small groups, there are lots of variables: Should they meet on campus or in homes? Should they be co-ed or same sex? Should they all study the same curriculum or be allowed to pick their own? Should they meet all year round or take the summer off? While these are all good questions, and worth thinking about, the truth is that none of these are the factors that most contribute to a successful small group ministry. Over the next couple of newsletters, I want to take a look at several key small group components that I believe make small groups work best.

  • Small Groups Work Best When Healthy Leaders Are in Place. Over the years, I’ve learned that small groups rise and fall on the leaders. Spiritually mature, healthy leaders who understand young teen development and have the patience to be part of the journey are crucial to small group ministry.

  • Small Groups Work Best When Leaders Stick Around. In our ministry, we’ve discovered that students who have the same small group leaders from year to year almost always report having had a better small group experience. Look for ways to slow down the ‘revolving door’ of adults who are leading your small groups.
  • Small Groups Work Best When Leaders Are Trained and Encouraged. Healthy leaders who stick around usually aren’t born; they’re made! Don’t assume a parent of an 8th grader knows how to lead a small group made up of eight 8th graders. A 21-year-old college student who seems about twice as cool as you isn’t automatically a confident, competent leader. Take the time to meet regularly with your small group leaders for training and encouragement.
  • Small Groups Work Best with More Than One Leader. I understand how tough it is to get enough small group leaders, let alone two per group! However, the benefits of two leaders per small group are too important to be ignored. Accountability, the ability for one to take a week off if needed, partnering a veteran with a rookie, two sets of life experiences, and the ability to build deeper relationships with students are just a few of the reasons having two leaders per group makes sense.
  • Small Groups Work Best When Leaders Get to Know the Parents. Greeting parents when they drop their student off, asking to speak to mom or dad when calling a student, and writing a quick note of encouragement to parents are super easy ways leaders can begin to build relationships with parents. When parents know and trust their child’s small group leader, they will be way more supportive.   


by Kurt Johnston
Simply Youth Ministry
Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He’s the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior high schoolers themselves.
Article used with permission. Simply Youth Ministry was founded by Doug Fields over 15 years ago to help simplify your youth ministry and save you time. If you’ve found this article helpful, stop by and check out the thousands of freebie downloads we have available at www.simplyyouthministry.com/freebies.