Making a good youth small group study yourself is time consuming perhaps, but also very rewarding. It gives you more flexibility than bought curricula, and you can adapt your study specifically to the needs of your small group. While I don’t believe there’s one right format for good small group studies, I do think there’s a process you can follow to help you create a good study. Here’s what I advise on how to make a good youth small group study:
Everything you do needs to start in prayer, be imbedded in prayer. Without God’s blessing, the best Bible study in the world won’t make a difference for your students. Make it a habit to spend some real time in prayer before writing a small group study, not just a two minute ‘rescue me’ prayer a few hours before small group starts.
2. Pick a topic or a passage
Some prefer to start with a defined theme (‘friendship’ or ‘grace’); some prefer to let a Bible passage be the start. Either route has its advantages and drawbacks, so changing tactics regularly is probably a good idea. Whatever you do, make sure that the Bible is front and center at your small group. If you spend more time doing games or other fun stuff than you do reading and discussing God’s Word, you may need to refocus on the goal of your youth small group.
3. Study the passage(s)
You’ll need to know a bit more about the passage you’ll be discussing. Read it in several translations or interpretations, and consult a few commentaries if you have them. For the topical ‘fans’, it’s very important to check if the passages really support your topic, and if you’re not taking things out of context, or interpreting them the wrong way. That’s where commentaries can be helpful.
4. Define a key message
Just like with making a sermon, you have to define a key message for your small group study. What do you want your students to learn, to remember, to do, and/or to feel? Normally, the goal of small groups is discipleship, transformation into the likeness of Jesus. So make sure your key message fits that goal and is practical enough to apply to the student’s daily lives.