Enjoyed reading AC’s blog yesterday about Ministering to Students in Crisis - I get to work with him everyday here at the church and am so thankful for someone who cares so deeply for students! Here’s an excerpt from his post, check out yoacblog.com for the rest:

  • PRAY CONTINUALLY -1Thessalonians 5:17     

Prayer should always be your first response. God has incredible plans for your students, and He wants you to be apart of it.  We must stay in communication with Him.  Connect with Him for the words to say and the steps to take, as you support students.

  • LISTEN WELL AND ASK QUESTIONS – James 1:19

Students that are going through crisis need you to do these two things more than anything else. I know it’s so tempting to give them advice because you’ve been where they are or you know the solution to the problem.  Taking the time to intently listen and ask questions says a lot.  You never know, you could be the only adult in their life who listens to them intentionally.

  • REMEMBER ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE THE HEART – Philippians 1:6

You are here because you like students and want God to do something awesome in their lives. God is going to use you.  We must remember that even though God uses us, He is the only one that can change hearts. So don’t carry the burden of this situation, thinking that you are the one that will change your students’ heart. God is faithful, He will fulfill His promise and complete the work that He has used you to begin.

JG

Our focus this week on relational youth ministry brings us to the practical question: How can we make our student ministry more relationship-based? Here are a few ways we’re trying to do just that in our ministry.

1 – Add a “welcome time” to youth group each week.
We’ve all seen this before, the “shake hands with 15 people around you” but when used sparingly it can be really effective. As your group grows, it’s surprisingly easy for the “basics” like a warm greeting to slip through the cracks!

Our students have come to love this time—we’ve expanded it to several minutes so that people can actually have a short conversation rather then just a cursory greeting. This is a great chance for introductions to be made, too! We have a volunteer every week who works hard to get to know someone new and makes it a point to introduce them to us specifically each week.

2 – Have everyone in place before and after the service.
If you are still running around finalizing details of your program when everyone is coming in, it’s gonna be tough to be relational! Work hard to do program-related stuff before students arrive; if you’re still dialing things in as they’re walking in, it’s simply too late. And tell everyone on your volunteer team they are “dead to each other” once youth group starts.

3 – Build down time to hang at every event.
If you’re at a youth conference, camp, or other big event, the planners have been paid to fill up every waking moment with something. In many cases, youth leaders choose a late-night option or yet another training session when what the group might need is some discussion time.

Maybe a break is in order, and you need to ditch a session and go get some frozen yogurt and just talk over what they’ve already learned. Relational ministry fights the go, go, go approach.

4 – Train your leaders in the art of asking good questions.
Help your leaders ask good questions—open-ended questions that require thoughts instead of a simple yes or no. Help them have an instantly ready queue of questions to ask someone they are meeting for the first time. Give them the tools to help them fight the awkward silences of first getting to meet someone.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



What makes a great small group discussion for you?  Is it the teens consistently talking?  Is it about controversial debates?  Is it one teen opening up about a huge issue in their life?  What makes a great small group discussion will differ from person to person; however, if what you are talking about isn’t bringing the group closer together and to Christ you might want to rethink structure and content.

While you can’t force deep and engaging conversation there are things you can do to create a framework that will make them possible.

Some of those factors are:

Preparing Your Team In Advance – Not that conversations need to be orchestrated; however, if you want teens to go deeper in certain areas of their faith you need to create a path to lead them down.  This means preparing your small group ministers to lead them.  Get them the questions out early enough, make sure they don’t have any questions and give them resources to widen their knowledge of the subject.

Setting Up The Right Environment – If teens are uncomfortable they’ll be distracted from engaging in conversation.  Make sure the room is clean, comfortable and set up for engaging conversation.

Embracing Silence – If it’s a heavy subject give them the time to process the question.  The tendency is to blow through the questions because silence is awkward; however, you might be cutting off a thought, question or idea that will move the discussion to a deeper level.

Gauging The Mood – It might not be the right night to talk about certain subjects; therefore, don’t force it.  If there is pushback on a subject ask the teens, “Why?” if they aren’t ready to talk about it, then have the conversation move to something they want to discuss.  By gauging the mood you are showing them that you care about what’s on their heart and mind.

Great discussions are ones that move us into a deeper relationship with one another.  However, don’t get frustrated if every small group isn’t profound and deep.  There are going to be times when you are amazed by what comes forth and others when you feel like a failure.  Small groups need to be organic, which means growth.  But a small group that grows through discussion is one that will strengthen and last.

What else can create great discussion in small group?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.