Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Church Youth Groups: 6 Types of Small Groups for Student Ministry

Church Youth Groups: 6 Types of Small Groups for Student Ministry

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Church youth groups increasingly rely on small groups to conduct ministry to teens. I recently chatted with a youth pastor who called small-group ministry the key to a flourishing youth program.

The fruit of our conversation was a typology of small groups in youth ministry. Here’s what we came up with for most church youth groups. How well do these categories fit your own use of small groups for teens? What else might work in your community?

6 Types of Small Groups for Church Youth Groups

1. Accountability Groups

In an accountability group, members seek to live out an agreed-upon set of rules or commitments. A formal group leader may or may not exist. Participants are bonded in their common desire to live by the group’s rules. The hope is that doing so will produce change or transformation in their life.

These groups might be called Covenant Discipleship groups, Fight Clubs and Life Groups in youth ministry. Typically they don’t have an explicit purpose of raising up a leader or generating new groups.

2. Recovery or Therapeutic Groups

In these groups, people gather around a common goal of recovering from a traumatic life event and/or addictions. The group typically has a formal leader with a unique set of skills. He or she helps people gain the resources and skills to heal from trauma or addiction.

These groups don’t have an explicit purpose of generating new groups. Some do have an explicit purpose of nurturing and raising up leaders with the skills to help group members. An example of a youth ministry group in this category is Celebrate Recovery groups (for example, Hurts, Habits and Hang-Ups).

3. Bible Teaching Groups

By far, these are the most popular small groups in church youth groups. The group gathers, typically by age and gender, for the explicit purpose of “learning” about the Bible from a group leader who teaches lessons. The leader typically has a conversational teaching style but can incorporate many different methods. These include stories, object lessons, group activities, self-directed exercises outside group, etc.

Some of these groups have an explicit purpose of raising up student leaders to teach the small group. Most don’t explicitly work to multiply. However, multiplication tends to come from a large group gathering that attracts more teenagers. Thus, it increases the number of participants in each small group, making it necessary for those groups to split and multiply.

Youth ministry folks call these Bible study groups, small groups, (insert youth group name) groups, WORD groups, Grow groups, etc.