Constitution Progress

Our High School Life Groups recently went through the “What on Earth Am I Here For?” a small group series by Rick Warren. One of our great small group leaders, Nathan Wells (who happens to also blog at told us about something really cool they did during week 3’s topic of fellowship:

When we got to week three, the topic was on Fellowship and this unknowingly opened a Pandora’s box for our guys to get real. In this series Pastor Rick divides the concept of fellowship into four main categories:

  • SHARING Together (Your Experiences, Your Support)
  • BELONGING Together
  • SERVING Together
  • SUFFERING Together

We asked the guys to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 of how they thought they act in general and how they act in Life Group in these four categories. Some rated themselves more graciously than others. After which, we (the leaders) made a general statement to the whole group that we didn’t think they were as high rated as some of them thought they were. (This was an intentional sting to get them to critically analyze this idea; we have a 3-year relationship).

The product of this was a strong conversation about what our problems are in our Life Group. We put each category up on the wall and made a list of things of why they felt it was hard to fulfill these categories. On a following week, we then drafted plans on how we could resolve these problems. We went through each item critically and devised solutions on how to counteract them,

By the end of the three weeks and after many conversations, we typed up all the things that were shared. We needed to have a way of organizing the commitments they developed to help change the problems, so we decided to borrow the format of the US Constitution for organization purposes. This can be misleading, because it is not a list of rules or laws, but rather a list of commitments. We also noted that our Life Group operated within the same checks and balances as the U.S. government.

  • God – Judicial (Ultimate Authority)
  • Adult Leaders – Executive (Final Authority)
  • Students – Legislative (First Authority)

All in all, the students produced a well thought out document that shared their heart and passion to be committed to one another and encourage one another to grow in their relationship with Christ together. We had communion together before signing it and prayed together as a way to honor God as the leader of our Life Group and then everyone signed copies so each student could have a signed copy. Because they wrote it, they have faithfully upheld it and are engaging more in fellowship.


Quick poll this week asking if your volunteers who serve in Small Groups also serve in your weekly youth group gatherings! In our high school ministry they are completely separate commitments, but we do have some that choose to serve at both (and we are eternally grateful for them!). How about you? Seems like most of the youth pastors I’ve talked to recently have asked for commitments to both the small group and the large group and would be interested to know what you do, and if you’re willing, explain why in the comments. Vote now!


•Small groups are messy. Really messy.
•Small groups are a logistical hassle. Meeting in homes only adds to the chaos.
•Small groups require lots of leaders.
•Small groups need constant attention and maintenance.
•In short…small groups can feel like a BIG pain.

But … small groups are totally worth it.

Here are 4 reasons why we think small groups are a big deal. Feel free to add your own (or a dissenting opinion) in the comments section:

Small groups help make invisible students visible
I (Josh) have 4 kids of my own – a couple of them are going to spend their lives being the center of attention and the other 2 are probably going to enjoy contributing on occasion but usually just fading into the background and allowing someone else to take center stage. Small groups put every student in a position to contribute and be challenged. A church that only gathers in the large group setting is encouraging only the faithful, vocal few to truly participate…others may attend, but very few participate. Small groups help make the typically invisible student a little more visible.

Small groups make any size church feel like home
It really doesn’t matter how big your youth ministry is – it is going to feel unwelcoming or even cold to some degree to an outsider. But when a student is invited into a small group… with only a handful of others it begins to feel warmer and more inviting. Personally, we love small groups in homes because this helps them feel even warmer.

Small groups create a youth pastor minor league
Looking to turn regular men and women into great youth workers? Give them a few seasons in small groups and you’ll be amazed at how their heart and their skills grow, and so will they! Small groups give plenty of opportunities for young leaders to shine. Instead of a personality-driven ministry , a strong small group strategy provides opportunities for lots and lots of youth pastors within one ministry.

Small groups produce Godly students
OK, this one isn’t guaranteed, but a small group environment does allow a great leader to be placed over, care for and disciple a handful of students. You can rest a little easier when a student gets connected in a small group – because you know they have a much better chance of their faith sticking because of the relationships that have been set in motion.

Do you think small groups are worth it? Why or why not?

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.

I wrote a colum for the current issue of Group Magazine – if you don’t subscribe to the #1 youth ministry magazine yet you can subscribe by following this link. It is a feature on technology we’re using in our youth ministry. Might be a good takeaway for yours, too!

There’s a little bit of the geek in all of us–we all love things that make our lives and our ministries more effective and more efficient. So here are my top five “crushes” in the world of youth ministry technology:

#1 Poll Everywhere–Ever wished you could get instant feedback during a talk? Or ever wanted a cutting-edge way to fuel great interactions during youth group? Poll Everywhere is a tool that works from the Web or in PowerPoint–it displays poll results in real-time on your screen. Teenagers vote by text-message and the results appear on screen literally seconds later. It adds a whole new layer of interaction in your youth group–it’s brilliant and accessible technology. I wish they had an affiliate program, I send hundreds of people every day there from my blog–just go to

#2 Duffled–Our ministry relies on text-messaging as our only dependable way of communicating with teenagers. On top of that we send out about a jillion text messages a month–and that’s where Duffled comes in. You can send and receive texts, make announcements, subscribe and unsubscribe from your phone, and operate using keywords. It has an easy Web interface and ties into your Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s not cheap, since you pay by the message, but well worth the cost–go to One other excellent (and more affordable) option, by the way, is SimplyText from our pals at Simply Youth Ministry (go to to check it out).

#3 LIVE Curriculum–This one may seem like a shameless plug since it was created by Group and Simply Youth Ministry–but it honestly isn’t. The only youth ministry curriculum we use is the Web-based LIVE curriculum because it’s simple and solid. And it’s pretty cheap once you get over the first year’s initiation cost. Go to

#4 HighRiseHQ–HighriseHQ is a productivity tool created by the gang over at 37Signals–we use it to manage our volunteer leaders. Think of it as a place in the cloud where information about all of your contacts is stored. Depending on the size of your group it could even be a tool that manages everyone in your ministry world. Go to One note: Simply Youth Ministry just launched its Tools resource that includes a leader-management component that’s killer–we’re looking at it right now as a possible replacement for HighRiseHQ.

#5 Church Teams–This inexpensive tool helps us check in with small-group leaders. Every week the system sends out a message to each of the leaders asking them to report in their attendance, prayer requests, and other pertinent information we might need from them. It gives us a chance to spot trends in groups, troubleshoot problems, pray more effectively, and keep the communication lines wide open. Go to


I’m pretty sure that baptisms are my favorite part of doing ministry. This weekend we talked about the who, what, why and when of baptism, with live baptisms after each service. So much fun and so powerful. The video (above) is of one of our seniors, Shane, getting baptized after the service. Love the small group moment at the end, too.

Here’s an excerpt from a note he left on my Facebook wall, too:

“my main man at the big S.C. haha thanks for baptizing me. it was kinda a leap of faith because i wasn’t planing on getting baptized until you said everyone come u who wants to be baptized. but i just knew it was the right time. and going first was no easy way to help my nervousness. hahah :) i was freaking out. i am gonna miss you next year buddy.


We get caught up in society’s view that bigger is better. From restaurants with huge over-sized portions, to big monster trucks, we think that unless we get something in gigantic portions we are missing out on something. The opposite is true when it comes to praise and letting students know you care, really care about them. You became a youth ministry worker/volunteer because you have a heart for students. When you take the time to let a student know he did good, even if you don’t know that student very well, you just built a bridge to him. He’s going to remember you. It just needs to be a few words, a pat on the back, or a quick hug.

The unfortunate fact is that today more than ever we are dealing with students from broken or single parent homes. The positive attention you give that student could be the only positive feedback he received from an adult all week. (Matt: I’ve had students tell me that the only hug he ever gets is when he comes to church. It breaks my heart to know that because I came from a family that hugged all the time. It also warms my heart to know that the hug I just gave a student made a difference in his day.)

Doing the smallest things can make the most difference. (Steven: A few weeks ago our student band and choir led worship in the “big church” for all of our adult services, and between working and attending, I was there for four out of our five weekend services. After the second time seeing them on stage, I made it a point to go up to one of the junior highers I know who had a vocal solo, give him a high five, and tell him how great he was. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I saw him light up.) All it took was a simple fifteen-second interaction to make that kid’s night.

(Matt: We have the guys in our small group lead the lesson each week. After our small group, I make sure that I text them or send them a message on Facebook telling them what a great job they did.) If a student reveals a hurt or prayer request they have, don’t miss that opportunity to let them know you care, and that you are available for them.

To piggy back on the text idea, if you don’t have some kind of texting plan for your cell phone, get one right now. Texting is one of the most effective “small things” you can do for your students, and you can do it throughout the week. It takes five seconds to send out a text to someone, and chances are they’ll love getting a text from their leader. (Steven: I also make it a point to text kids a few times a week if I know they’re going through a hard time. It might not fix their situation, but it gives them a sense of encouragement and love from someone they look up to.) That action that took you five seconds may have just turned that kid’s day completely around.

Just because something doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a small thing for a student, but think about the small things people do for you that make a huge difference. (Matt: For example, if I’m having a bad day, sometimes all it takes is a few simple words of encouragement or caring to help me shake off the bad.) (Steven: Something that will absolutely make my day is someone telling me I did a good job. When I hear that, I know that I did something well, and it encourages me to want to do more.) We got into the youth ministry game to make a difference in students’ lives. You don’t have have to buy a kid a Ferrari, you just have to show them you care.

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from two different generations and perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future — for now you can follow them on Twitter ( and check out their previous blog posts (