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Technique and Grace in Small Group Ministry

What’s with all the questions?

Last week there were a couple of great blog posts in the youth ministry blog-o-sphere.  The posts were for small group leaders and they dealt with the topic of conversation in small groups. Specifically, Jeremy and Rachel focused on the technique for crafting questions that invite deeper reflection and conversation with youth.  You need to read them!

Technique–how we do something- is of great importance to youth workers.  We need to constantly revisit technique in order to refine our skills. The painter needs to continually look for new ways to use their brushes to improve the dimensions of their work.  The writer needs to experiment with all the parts of grammar to enhance the power of their communication.  In the same way, the small group leader needs to engage the “art of asking questions” in order to refine their dialogue skills. And both Jeremy and Rachel crafted great posts that any small group leader could use to experiment with their conversation skills.

The lie we’re tempted to believe in our technology driven society is that there is a one to one correlation between technique and results.  In other words, if I master the art of asking great questions then I will become the best small group leader.  Or if I ask great questions then students will talk more.  Or whatever action-result pairing you want.

The truth is that technique is just one part of the whole in this crazy thing we call small group ministry.  The wild dimensions of human relationships and the divine call us to leave open the possibility for grace and free will.  These two silent actors in our interaction with youth in small groups breaks the equation of, My Action = Desired Result.

The Grace Card

Don’t think that I am going to try to define the interaction between grace and free will in the context of small groups.  I’m not that arrogant… I hope.  But I do want to point out some implications of God’s loving presence in the midst of small group ministries.

1. God works even when we mumble…

Let’s face it some of the worst communicators in the world make the most faithful small group leaders.  I know my small group leader in college rambled and mumbled through our conversations more than he evoked deep reflection.  Yet, the connections that I had with him, the others guys and God was deep and led me to repent of several sins and cling to God’s love.  The lesson is that God works with what we give him even if that’s mumbling.

2.  Chaos might be the thing….

Manage and it’s cool sidekick, facilitate, typically get lumped into the small group leader technique pile.  I’m not knocking the need for order in small groups.  I know that it is needed.  But I’ve had studentsfeel comfortable in chaotic small group times more than in ordered moments.  And the deep things they shared in those moments were divine in origin.

3.  Prayer is weird…

There are teens who pray like Greg Focker.  And I’ve witnessed those teens share deep hurts and ask for help as they prayed.  I chalk that upto God meeting them in that moment in a way that could not be manufactured or forced into being by any technique.

In the End

I hope that you get the point that I’m not knocking technique.  It is needed.  Yet, we need to always temper our fervor for precision and exactitude with the reality that we are people living our lives into God’s economy.  So let’s have zeal for becoming the small group leader God is calling us to be.  But let’s always lean into God’s grace remembering that we can’t control the outcome.