Each week we’ll be writing about different ways that we, as leaders, can effectively be examples to our students, and we’ll discuss different topics to talk over with our students. These topics range from relationships to being active in a small group. All of these topics are nuggets every leader can apply to his or her life. It’s our hope that you’ll check back to see what next week’s topic is, and that you can apply what we’ve learned in your own life as a fellow volunteer youth worker.
Today’s blog is about leaders being active and involved in a small group
Being involved in a small group is absolutely essential for students to become more connected to God. Weekend services are a great time for worship, praise, and learning, but small groups are where students get a deep connection with fellow students, a feeling of belonging, and where problems and issues can be talked about openly and honestly. Small groups are where REAL ministry happens because that’s where it gets REAL. As leaders, we can’t stress the importance of being in a small group if we are not in one ourselves! We can’t expect students to do what we, as leaders, don’t model for them. Small groups are a place where we can really grow in our faith, which in turn will enable us to help students grow in theirs. It serves as an example for students when they see us participating in service projects, fellowship, and accountability through small group relationships. This is yet another way for us to pass on what we know from generation to generation.
Steven: When it comes to youth ministry, my favorite part of ministering to students is through small groups. Part of why I like them is probably because I am not only involved in an awesome small group now, but because I was also in one when I was in junior high and high school.
When I first started junior high, I was in a small group with a really cool group of guys. As years went by and I moved into high school, that group stuck together (for the most part) all the way through my senior year. We didn’t always have the same leader; in fact, we had 5 different leaders in 6 years, but as long as the group stayed together, the relationships lasted. I have formed some of the strongest bonds with my best friends because of small group. We have been very open about things in our lives, and because of that I feel like I have a great core group of buddies that I can go to at any time with anything that is on my heart.
I feel like I can help students grow more in small groups than in any other situation. One of the major things that students realize in a small group is that they’re not alone. So many of our students go through life thinking they’re the only one with a particular problem, but if they are actively involved in a small group they will realize that other people their age are usually going through the same things. They can also get closer to a group of friends or accountability partners in that time, which in junior and senior high is extremely important.
I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I didn’t have a small group to back me up. Because of them I have learned a ton about myself, and I’ve grown tremendously in the Lord. They have taught me and helped me along in my walk with Christ, and that’s what I want for my junior high students too. I want them to have all the benefits of small group that I’ve experienced over the years, and the best way for them to get involved is if they see their leader doing it first. Like we’ve said before, students suck up everything we do like sponges, so if we make a big deal about small groups, they’re going to think it’s a big deal. I stay in my small group because it helps me grow, and it gravitates my students toward growing as well.
Matt: When I look back at my life, the first time I noticed a huge change in my role as a Christian was when I got involved in a small group. One of the pitfalls to belonging to a mega church is that it can be easy to hide. I would attend worship service each and every week, usually leaving before the service was over so that I didn’t have to deal with traffic and getting out of the parking lot. I would feel energized in my faith…for a day or so…and then I would find myself slipping into habits I wasn’t proud of. Then some friends invited me to come to one of their small group meetings. After one meeting I was hooked. Now I knew people from church, I was doing weekly bible study and beginning to set time aside each day for a quiet time to get closer with God. We took on a service project at a local Alzheimer’s facility where we brought church to them. I began to volunteer with the security ministry which would later turn into a change of career for me as it evolved into a full-time job. From there I began talking and counseling with at-risk teens that I would come across and eventually got involved with our high school ministry by being a small group leader and a weekend service volunteer.
Each time I thought I was helping out teens and improving their life and their walk with God it would dawn on me, God was also growing me at the same time. The past year my walk with God grew stronger than ever. Each week when I meet with the students in my high school small group, I watch them as they grow more and more connected to the body of Christ and as they hold each other accountable. Last week was our first small group meeting of this school year. The change in these 15 guys is truly amazing. I’ve had parents call me or my co-leader and ask what we did to their son to change them…we always answer the same way: “It wasn’t us, it was God, he just used us.” When you’re involved in a small group you feel connected and changed in your faith and walk, and I want that for each and every one of my guys in my high school small group. This is my way of passing on to the next generation how important a small group connection can be.