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GUEST POST: When One Student Shows

 —  May 11, 2013 — 6 Comments

Last night I ran my small group that normally runs at about 5-6 students. Its a senior high group that has a mix of schools, sports and friendships. I love this group as they can have a lot of fun but they can go deep into a conversation and study sometimes.
The challenge was that only one student came.

There were a variety of reason; baseball and field hockey have started; the Vancouver Canucks were losing to the Sharks in hockey it was a busy night. But when only one student showed to discussion group you have to make a quick decision about what to do.

So I decided to take him out to Menchies, which is a frozen yogurt place with a ton of toppings and flavors. I decided to leverage this opportunity to talk with him about things we have chatted about in the past, we talked about everything from the timelessness of God to long boarding.

At the end of the night I dropped him off at home and felt like I had possibly had a huge impact in 2 hours of hanging out. So I started to ask myself why: why did that feel right? Why did we connect so much in that time? What made that into good youth ministry.

And it dawned on me that I was treating a student special. Very few students ever get attention from a role model they have in their life. Sure I probably could have cancelled the group before he got there, but what kind of message would that have sent?

All of this brought me to thinking about having a plan for when just one student shows up. Now some people have a tiny church and this happens all the time, others are in a mid-sized church like myself and it happens rarely, and others again are in a huge church where this would only happen very rarely in a small group setting.

But do you have a plan? Do your small group leaders know how to deal with this scenario? These moments could potentially be the most meaningful moments ever to happen in youth ministry. How are you going to leverage them?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Josh Griffin


6 responses to GUEST POST: When One Student Shows

  1. Great, great point. When only one student shows up and you cancel it, what does that say to the one student who made time in his/her schedule for the group?

    I often tell a story to our small group leaders about my first year in youth ministry. It was a smaller church, and while lots of middle school students were involved when I arrived, not many high school students really wanted much to do with the high school ministry (or even the church) because of the kind of exit the previous youth pastor made. Still, we had youth group every Sunday night, and there was a core group of 4-5 students to begin with (who were usually outnumbered by a great group of leaders I was blessed with). However, there were some Sunday nights when only one student would show up. It was usually was the same student that was there on her own. So, we loaded up one of the leader’s cars and headed to get some coffee and dessert–usually four leaders and one student.

    The next year, our ministry experienced some growth, and that scenario never happened again. When that student graduated, I asked her what it was like those few times when it was just her and four leaders having coffee. She said (and I’ve never forgotten this), “It was kinda awkward at times…but I’m glad that you never cancelled youth group, even if it was just me.”

    • Love that testimony of it working out for the one student. So cool to have the coffee and dessert plan. I hope that you felt really encouraged, and I hope that one day that student can use that story to help point someone towards Christ.

  2. Thanks for posting this. Our Student Life ministry runs consistently at 6-10 students, primarily because we have several who are in split families. It’s easy to get caught up in the chase after numbers because we are bombarded by images and stories from mega churches.

    If I positively influence a single student’s life each week, I consider that a roaring success. Years from now, I know the impact will help them change lives, too.

  3. Great post! I’m curious though, were you one on one with this student? In our church we must always have 2 adults present in any situation. I’m curious house you might address this issue

    • Hi Tom,

      In this case I was two on one with the student. My wife and I lead the small group together. As for being one-on-one with students, I would encourage you to stick with your child protection policy and insurance policy. There is no point in being haphazard with those, and I believe it is very important to be as professional as we can as youth workers. If you have no defined rules or a grey area, clear it up with your supervisor or direct report and use common sense, and not so common sense.

      Now I do have one-on-ones with my students, however I am particular about this. If I am driving a student anywhere by myself I make sure the parents are aware of it, and would only do it if I was comfortable with the student and the situation. If I am meeting one on one with a female student I do it in a public place with plenty of traffic. If it is about something sensitive,I use a space in the church or I use a local coffee shop where they have a meeting room that works well for this sort of thing.

      Hope this helps

  4. Hey Josh!

    That just happened to me too. I had another leader and one student. So what we did is we went to McDonalds and bought tons of large french fries and went to the houses of all the missing small group members. If they were home doing homework or something else we let them know we missed having them. If they were not home and a parent was home we wrote a note and left the french fries so that cold fries would be waiting. If nobody was home we left them on their door hoping they would get to it before the raccoons.

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