Does Your Youth Ministry Need Small Groups?

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Allen White had a great post on this, and it got me thinking about the varying forms of community that people of all ages crave at different levels:

  • Massive: Conferences, conventions, concerts, local cross-church gatherings and workcamps can serve this.
    • Mentality: “I’m a part of the church, and not just my church.”
  • Big: Weekend services, mid-week ministry gatherings and a big day of serving can serve this.
    • Mentality: “We’re getting together—a bunch of people I do and don’t know—to do something important that is larger than all of us, but involves all of us.”
  • Medium: House parties, block parties, informal holiday get-togethers, potlucks and summer camp can serve this
    • Mentality: “I’d like to generally hang out with the circle around my circle, but still specifically hang out with my circle.”
  • Small: Small groups, classes, table discussions, travel to-and-from places and even a smaller mission trip can serve this.
    • Mentality: “I hope a core group of people take the time to get to know my story and others allow me to get to know their story.”
  • One-on-One: Accountability relationships, friendships, mentoring and personal Bible studies can serve this
    • Mentality: “It’s important to me to not just be known, but to be personally understood and better understand.”

Toss in that some prefer informal versus formal approaches on each of those, and the problem only compounds for people like us trying to get them into some meaningful community. Add introvert versus extrovert, and you’ll want to throw up your hands altogether.

Which … is probably where it needs to start.


Literally: “God, what is the dominant form of community we should impress upon folks? Or should we let them impress their favorite form of community upon us?”

One of the chapters in Uncommon Wisdom From the Other Side explores this. I’m including one of the graphics here for you to ponder and consider. I call it the “Relational Hourglass.” For a full explanation of how it plays out at each level, check out the chapter “From Life Change to Life Changers.” At the end, I share this summary:

You may also notice how the curves of an hourglass slope, first to shrink and then to expand. The pool of students you can track at each level thins out as they move forward, but then inverts as they take on love and responsibility for others. You can high-five numerous kids at the door but only truly track the intimate details of a handful of youth. On the other hand, as they invest in their friends, you become a part of that as you influence the student leaders.

Just remember that this is an hourglass. It may take a while to move them to the next level you think they should be at. Don’t let that stop you from loving them wherever they are today. [ read more ]

What has been your experience on the type of community that’s working best for your ministry versus what you’d like to be working?

Is it a matter of making our approach that we feel God has ordained work …

or a matter of joining God in what’s already working?

Who needs community (and which kind)?

Does your church or ministry really need the type of community being pushed out on the people? Or are they looking for something else?

What do you think?  


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Tony Myles
Tony Myles is the Lead Pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio, and passionately reaches more than 63,000 unchurched people weekly through his Cleveland-area newspaper column "Fully-Alive Living." With over 20 years of experience and advanced education in youth ministry, Tony is a self-described “messy Christ-follower” with an overflowing love for God, his amazing wife Katie, their three awesome kiddos, and the Church in all its imperfect, redemptive beauty.

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