As I’m planning for the fall and making sure leaders are contacting their small groups, I reflect on my own. It’s hard to believe they’ll all be seniors. It felt like yesterday that I was meeting them for the first time as scrawny little freshmen. Today, they tower over me and make sure I know it. The most rewarding aspect of my group of guys is witnessing the depth that has occurred. What started as shallow guy talk has evolved over the years to true Christian accountability.
Small groups are an essential part of your ministry; however, they aren’t as simple as grabbing a group of teenagers together and asking questions. Small groups need to be able to go deeper, even when they aren’t meeting. That means making small groups a focus of your student ministry, and it also means:
Setting Expectations: The first time you meet, and then every so often after that, you need to cast the vision that you have for the group. What do you expect out of them as participants and what should they expect out of you as a leader? Make sure your teens see this as something serious and not just an opportunity to be social.
Staying Flexible: Granted, you might have a curriculum for your groups; however, you need to be prepared for when life happens to one of your teens. Small groups are messy because they deal with life. If a teen is dealing with a breakup, parents’ divorce, rough week at school, anything, you need to be able to drop the agenda and care for that teen.
Building Trust: The teens need to trust you and you need to trust them. This means being authentic and transparent with your story. It also means calling them out when they are acting beneath their potential. Keep short accounts, praise them in public and address issues one on one with each member. Build trust by communicating authenticity and God’s love.
Creating Challenging Opportunities: Small groups are safe if they never leave the designated time and place. Challenge your group to grow by serving together in a mission, or taking on a camping adventure. Create a memorable experience that forces the group to interact and work in a new way. It will be something that stays with them for a lifetime.
Praying Together and For One Another: It’s so easy to forget about praying with your small group. You take for granted that you meet in a church and the conversation is about God; therefore, who needs to pray? Prayer is what will bond and deepen the group. It will remind each member what the purpose of their relationship is, and it will remind each member that someone does care.
Stronger groups go beyond the curriculum, the allotted meeting time and space. Small groups that last are built on trust, integrity and love. Challenge your leaders to grow their group deeper and watch them take the Gospel further.
How do you help small groups go deeper?