Why Small Groups Last

 —  December 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

As my small group of high school guys entered into their junior year of high school I remember feeling a little anxiety.  Typically this is the year that small groups are tested because of the amount of distractions and obstacles the students face.  Teens are beginning to think about college, and classes are more intense.  For many of them they are making the varsity team which means a different commitment.  Some of them are looking to get their driver’s license, which means they have a little more freedom and a little less accountability to show up from their parents.  As the teens get older, their commitment to the group is tested.

But, there are those groups that last.  There are those groups that not only stay strong; but, withstand the transitions of seasons.  Why is that?  Is it the leader? The teens?  While those are huge factors there are a few steps every leader should take to ensure their small groups last through the years.  Those steps are:

Communicating Consistently – Your group needs to hear your voice more than just at the weekly gatherings.  Check-in with them during the week.  Talk with their parents.  Make your relationship with them consistent.  Communicating consistently helps you become a regular voice in their life.  Whether it’s an invitation to join group each week or a shout out on Twitter, letting them know you’re invested will go far.

Meeting Outside The Usual – On top of your weekly gatherings try to get together for a mission project or fellowship gathering.  It’s easy to forget how hard it is for these teens to find healthy social opportunities.  By getting them together outside of the small group you turn it from a “church” thing into a life group.

Connecting One On One – It might be a challenge, but when you can meet one on one with your teens you begin to understand the dynamics of the group.  This helps you lead discussions in your group in a way that promotes depth.  The teens will feel like you know them personally because of your private conversations.  It will encourage them to open up in ways they couldn’t have before.

Setting Goals And Vision – Every church needs goals and vision.  Doesn’t matter if it’s thousands of people or half a dozen, without vision the people will perish.  Your small group needs goals and vision to grow and go deeper.  It allows the group to go from a social hour into something lasting.

Leading a small group is an investment.  It will be tested; however, by getting to know each individual and challenging them with different opportunities, the group will strengthen.

How do you strengthen your small groups?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Every now and then we take a break from the normal routine to interview a friend, author, ministry leader or youth worker we think would have something to share with the youth worker nation. Today we talk to Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share (dare2share.org), which is a ministry dedicated to equipping students to share their faith. Greg is a long-time friend of Simply Youth Ministry and will be speaking in a general session at the upcoming SYMC Conference in March.

1. Dude, many of our readers haven’t met you before—tell us about yourself!
For 10 years I was a church planter and pastor of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado. Although I loved this amazing church, God used the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 as a wake-up call for me to focus full-time on reaching the next generation for Christ. I resigned my post as pastor and began to mobilize teens for evangelism through Dare 2 Share.

I’ve been married for 21 years to the love of my life, Debbie. We have two great kids who, unfortunately for my wife, have my spastic genes. We couldn’t have kids for 10 years and wondered if God would ever bless us with children. We were so thrilled that he did! Being a husband and daddy has taught me more theology than any Bible class I’ve ever sat through. It’s humbling and exhilarating all at the same time!

When I’m not traveling the nation equipping youth leaders and teens for evangelism, I’m hanging out with the fam. We live in the great state of Colorado and love to hike together. This summer my son and I had the opportunity to climb our first two “14ers” (mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation). It was great fun…even though I thought my lungs were going to burst. One more thing…I’m a movie freak.

2. How did you become so passionate about student evangelism?
I was raised in a family of body-building, tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking thugs (and that’s just the women!). Seriously, my family was bad to the bone. The Denver “mafia” knew my five fighting uncles as “the crazy brothers.” So when the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional you have some serious issues.

But this church from the suburbs reached out to the city and, as a result, my entire family came to Christ. As a kid I witnessed the spiritual transformation of every one my family members from violent troublemaker to passionate Christ follower. This church also had a killer youth ministry who discipled us—that is, had us growing deep in our relationship with Christ and understanding theology, as well as training and expecting us to share our faith. They also had high expectations when it came to leadership and they gave teenagers significant responsibilities in leading the youth ministry, which I think is critical. There’s no way I’d be doing Dare 2 Share if I hadn’t seen it modeled in this amazing youth ministry setting first. Bottom line as to why I’m so passionate about student evangelism? I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teenagers!

3. Yesterday we talked about producing evangelistic students; what is the biggest key in your mind for students to “get it”?
They have to have their hearts broken for their friends who don’t know Jesus. They need to get their “Jesus eyes” on.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor challenged me to go to a local shopping mall and do some people watching for 30 minutes. He told me to put an imaginary tag on people’s foreheads as they walked by which read, “Bound for Hell.” I did just that. For 30 minutes I thought about the hell they were headed to and the hell they were going through apart from Jesus. By the time it was over I was crying. For the first time I saw people through the eyes of Christ and my heart has been broken ever since. As we put our teens in situations to interact with unreached people (mission trips, local outreaches, etc), we will have the opportunity to teach them to put their Jesus eyes on. Then, as their hearts begin to break for the lost, evangelism becomes much more natural.

4. Tell us about a time you were rejected after sharing your faith. How can leaders prepare students for the adversity they face in times like that?
There have been many times I’ve been rejected. The hardest was my Uncle Richard. He was the one holdout of my uncles who refused to believe in Jesus. It took 12 years of sharing and being rejected by him before he finally succumbed to Jesus (just before succumbing to cancer).

I think youth leaders can prepare their students by helping them realize that rejection is part of the discipleship process. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

At Dare 2 Share we do a thing called “Persecution University.” If a teen gets rejected for sharing Jesus, they become a PU grad and get a standing ovation from the thousands of teens in the auditorium. Of course some Christians get persecuted, not for sharing their faith, but for the way they are sharing their faith. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping teens to humbly share the good news and then realize that, if their friends reject them, they are entering a fraternity of persecution that’s 2,000 years old. I find that teens who truly realize this have their faith steeled and sealed deep inside their souls.

5. You are an excitable guy! What are you most excited about at Dare 2 Share!
We are seeing teenagers truly share their faith, and youth groups are growing in maturity and in numbers as a result!  We are witnessing how evangelism accelerates the discipleship process in ways no traditional model can emulate. It’s great fun to watch the exciting messiness of a youth group growing with new and raw teen disciples.

I’m also excited about the way the Lord has opened up the door for this movement to be scalable outside of our Dare 2 Share events. From training curriculum to our free online training material to webinars to an upcoming Dare 2 Share mobile app (coming soon) we are pumped up to see that God is moving beyond our training conferences to accelerate teen evangelism training. Of course, the Dare 2 Share conferences are as exciting as ever and we are adding more and more new cities to the tour. I love what God does through these catalytic training events!

But what excites me most is that I believe we could witness a true revival in this nation within my lifetime. And I’m fully convinced teenagers and youth leaders will be on the leading edge of this next great awakening. I’m a student of past revivals and, to be honest, I’m tired of reading about revivals—I want to be a part of one!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



devotionalI am always looking for great devotional resources for my students.  We are launching the New Year with Simply’s H.A.B.I.T.S. sermon series, this super series contains loads of freely reproducible resources like devotionals for guys, girls, and students in general.  I LOVE the idea of having unlimited resources at my finger tips but I think I will be adding a few of these new devotionals Simply is releasing called The Simple Truth Bible.  Check them out by downloding 20 ABSOLUTELY FREE! And if you like them, buy in bulk, you can get a deeper discount.  Click here for The Simple Truth Bible devotionals.

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Guess who’s going to be in Boston in February 2013?!… Simply Youth Ministry is one of the sponsors of
Open Boston this February. We encourage you to check out their website and see all the good things they are doing for youth workers around the nation! Oh yeah, Jason O. and Nadim will be there, too!

**Here’s a little note from Jake Kircher and Adam McLane- Two of the guys who make Open possible**

Jake and I are really excited about this news for a lot of reasons. For me, I’m excited about adding Simply because they are such great friends of The Youth Cartel who really get what we are trying to do with Open. A few months ago Marko and I were in their offices in Colorado and I had the opportunity to share the heart behind the Open movement and the idea of flipping the typical youth ministry event on its head. When I talked about intentionally creating a place where front-line youth workers can present what they are learning, how they are innovating in their context, and exploring what may be transferable… that connected with their team right away.

For Jake, he’s been friends with Simply for a long-time, participating in a wide array of stuff with them. So having them as a sponsor at Open is natural and fun. It just makes sense.

Meet Jason & Nadim at Open Boston

Another awesome part of having Simply on board for Open Boston is that Jason Ostrander and Nadim Najm will be in Boston to hang out with us for the day and help out. So if you’ve ever wanted to get to know them, this is a great opportunity!

Registration is currently open. We hope to see you there on February 2nd.

Check it out!

Stephanie



(This is a list from the blog of Rick Eimers at http://teenbuilding.wordpress.com. It speaks for itself and was exactly what I’d been looking for. Thanks, Rick, for being a pastor to this CT youth pastor and for allowing youth pastors everywhere to know exactly how to pray. It could have been us.)

December 19, 2012 by eimrickconnecticut_shooting

We are all still reeling from the school shooting that happened this past weekend.  This afternoon, I had the privilege of talking with a youth pastor from Newtown, CT.  He works with children and teenagers in his community just minutes from where the shooting happened.

There was a lot that he and I talked and prayed about.  Here are a few of the prayer requests that he said that I could feel free to share.

1.  For his personal healing.  Help him find joy in suffering.

2.  Many of the families in their church were friends or associates with victims families. 

3.  That God would use this tragedy for His Glory.  Provide a spiritual awakening in the town.

4.  The town is crawling with media and it’s proving difficult to try and live any semblance of normal living.

5.  The church wants to help and is trying to find their role in the healing process.

6.  There were kids from the youth group that had recently gone off to college that had known Adam Lanza.

7.  Healing for kids and teens who are trying to reconcile so much during this time.

8.  For Christmas joy.  Newtown is a town that always makes a big deal of Christmas and many people have taken down decorations because of the guilt they feel for celebrating.

9.  How to address the youth group kids in the coming days, weeks, months.

10. Wisdom for the youth ministry network of 8 guys in the area.

I’d encourage you to take a moment to pray for these 10 requests.  Feel free to post in the comment page any encouragement that you’d like to share with these guys.  I’ll be emailing him this post.

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Weekend Teaching Series: Instalife (week 2 of 2)
Service Length:
75 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we wrapped up the incredible Instalife series. I Tweeted the other day about how much I had loves this series – for sure it was the most well-received series of the year. Didn’t mean it was soft or light, but the framework of Instagram really helped make it very relevant to their lives. This week we went after pretending and showing off on Instagram, and how pretty soon we start to get great at covering up. I walked students through some principles from Colossians 3 to help students deal with this destructive mindset. Really, really enjoyed this service.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a couple of great Christmas videos I can’t wait to show you. One was the classic “That’s Christmas” and a new video called A Very Colton and Travis Christmas special. We also played Who Wants to Be a Fraction of a Millionaire (Instagram edition). Lots of students involved, lots of laughs.

Music Playlist: He is Alive, Christ in Me, Mary Did You Know, We Are Saved, O Holy Night

Favorite Moment: At the end of the talk I decided to do an extended object lesson on stage where we built the “perfect Instagram” on stage, then deconstructed it to help teach the lesson. One of my favorites, such a powerful image that our students/leaders pulled off to help strengthen the lesson.

Up next: Christmas Services (all-church, 1-off)



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I got a chance to review the new Christmas album yesterday – now EMI is going to put a copy of Burning Lights into your hands! Well, 5 of you that is! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and on Christmas Day I’ll post the winners who will be sent a copy just ahead of the street date. How’s that for a Christmas present? Enter now!

JG

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Thought it would be a good idea to give everyone a quick update on YouthPastorDiet.com competition so far. So far is has been so fun! Here it is by the numbers:

Off to an incredible start – 72 days to go!

JG