Does your church or youth ministry need small groups?

Allen White had a great post on this and it got me thinking about the varying forms of community that people of all ages crave at different levels:

  • communityMassive: Conferences, conventions, concerts, local cross-church gatherings and workcamps can serve this.
    • Mentality, “I’m a part of the Church, and not just my church.”
  • Big: Weekend services, mid-week ministry gatherings and a big day of serving can serve this.
    • Mentality, “We’re getting together – a bunch of people I do and don’t know to do something important that is larger than all of us, but involves all of us.”
  • Medium: House parties, block parties, informal holiday get-togethers, potlucks and summer camp can serve this
    • Mentality: “I’d like to generally hang out with the circle around my circle, but still specifically hang out with my circle.”
  • Small: Small groups, classes, table discussions, travel to-and-from places and even a smaller mission trip can serve this.
    • Mentality: “I hope a core group of people take the time to get to know my story and others allow me to get to know their story.”
  • One-on-One: Accountability relationships, friendships, mentoring and personal Bible studies can serve this
    • Mentality: “It’s important to me to not just be known, but to be personally understood and better understand.”

Toss in that some prefer informal versus formal approaches on each of those, and the problem only compounds for people like us trying to get them into some meaningful community. Add introvert versus extrovert and you’ll want to throw up your hands altogether.

Which… is probably where it needs to start.


Literally: “God, what is the dominant form of community we should impress upon folks? Or should we let them impress their favorite form of community upon us?”

hourglassOne of the chapters in “Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side” explores this. I’m including one of the graphics here for you to ponder and consider. I call it the “Relational Hourglass.” For a full explanation of how it plays out at each level, check out the chapter “From Life Change to Life Changers.” At the end, I share this summary:

You may also notice how the curves of an hourglass slope, first to shrink and then to expand. The pool of students you can track at each level thins out as they move forward, but then inverts as they take on love and responsibility for others. You can high-five numerous kids at the door but only truly track the intimate details of a handful of youth. On the other hand, as they invest in their friends, you become a part of that as you influence the student leaders.

Just remember that this is an hourglass. It may take a while to move them to the next level you think they should be at. Don’t let that stop you from loving them wherever they are today. [ read more ]

What has been your experience on the type of community that’s working best for your ministry versus what you’d like to be working?

Is it a matter of making our approach that we feel God has ordained work…

or a matter of joining God in what’s already working?

Who needs community (and which kind)?

Does your church or ministry really need the type of community being pushed out on the people? Or are they looking for something else?

What do you think? 

491398827_640Evangelizing can be weird for students. I felt like a salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school. And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells things people don’t know they want or even need. A perfect example of this is the person at the kiosk booths at the mall. They pace up and down talking to people who aren’t paying them any attention. Trying to sell them something they didn’t even come to the mall to get. I used to feel that way when I would have to go out and share my faith. I would think to myself, these people don’t want to hear what I have to say. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood that it will always be about sharing something with people who don’t know they need it.

Now, I personally believe God uses a lot of different ways to share His message through us. So I will never say one way is better. Because in some way or another God uses them all. But in this post I want to discuss evangelizing through relationship.

While I wouldn’t say it’s better, I will say it’s my favorite when it comes to teaching students how to evangelize to their friends. Evangelizing through relationships teaches students three things:

  1. It reinforces the main point of the gospel, which is God’s longing to be in relationship with us.
  2. It helps students not see the person being evangelized as a project or a deal needing closing, but a person God loves.
  3. It helps them speak through their own relationship with God, and from their own story and experiences which can’t be disputed.

So here are the four steps I like to walk students through when it comes to sharing there faith with their friends.

I Teach Them To Know The Gospel - Have you ever lead someone to a destination you didn’t know the directions to? I’m guessing your answer is NO. Well, it’s the same when it comes to sharing our faith. You gotta know how you got to where you are, in order to show people how to get there.

I Teach Them To Know Their Story – A lot of times students are paralyzed by fear because they don’t know what to say. So I’ll have students write their story out using a template if needed. And it will be about how God has changed their life. They will use this information to share the gospel. I’ve learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life, than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs. So teach them to know their story.

I Teach Them To Get To Know Their Friends Story - A lot of times we know people and are friends with them, but we never engage in any conversations concerning the issues of life. So it’s important they know you care about the details of their life, because you are modeling how much God cares about them. Also, you have to earn the right to speak into their life, the same way people have to earn the right to speak into yours. We do that through getting to know who they are. Learning someone else’s journey is the quickest way to grow in relationship with that person. Get to know there story.

I Teach Them To Understand The Gospel And How It Intersects Their Story. – The gospel becomes more real once you understand how it applies to you. And for the most part we are most comfortable talking about ourselves. So it’s important that we don’t just know the verses and the right christianized language. We need to understand the gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence that comes to the one who understands this point.

Hope it  helps,


Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Check it out!!!

This episode we give the top 6 areas to train small group leaders on, and AC interviews a parent on their expectations concerning small groups. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and send questions to



Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1We are back this week with our Let’s Talk Youth Ministry video blog after taking some time off for the summer. We discuss how to keep the momentum of your small group launch rolling, and also how we handle parents concerning life groups. If you have any questions or topics you would love for us to talk about just email us at


Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC

iStock_ValueI’ve learned that with every program or event that we do in youth ministry I think one of the areas we can always improve on is the way in which we make things better. The feedback we receive from our leaders is priceless. We use that info to make next year better for them and our students. I’m sure there are a lot of you who do the same. So for some of you, I’m preaching to the choir.

If this hasn’t been something that you’ve been doing, I would humbly advise you to start. It’s a value in our ministry that leaders serve with us and not for us. Also, we have to recognize that we don’t have all the answers. And being in youth ministry doesn’t make you an expert at it. So know that you can also learn from them. Remember, they are focusing on one task, so that already gives them more time to think about it then you. It also gives them the high probability of becoming better at it than you. Which is something you should take advantage of and not fear.

I try to incorparate my volunteers input either during the planning process or by doing a debrief. And it has been super great and has helped me a ton in a lot of areas. So I thought I’d share my top five reasons for doing so, in hopes that it would help someone else value their volunteers the same.

  1. They Feel Valued – Giving them the opportunity to give feedback that may change the way things are done, says a lot about the trust you have in them. It also raises the value they bring to your ministry.
  2. They Grow In Ownership – When they have a say in what they do, they grow in ownership of the ministry. Because they are no-longer serving for the ministry, they are now serving with the ministry.
  3. They Make The Ministry Better – When you allow your leaders to take part in the planning process, you are making the ministry better. Because even if you don’t get super great ideas from them, you will at least get good ideas that could morph into super great ideas. Also, just bouncing ideas around is good for you. Especially if you are the only paid youth worker in the ministry. You need to plan and debrief with someone.
  4. They Become Great Advertisement – Word of mouth is the advertisement that can make or break your ministry. And I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve seen leaders recuit others based on their experience in the ministry. I’ve also seen the opposite happen. The worse thing you can do is make a volunteer feel like hired free help. The volunteer that feels valued will sing the praises of the ministry, because they’ve become a stakeholder in its success. (Check this post out for more on this topic.)
  5. They Stick Around – When I was just a volunteer I wanted to be somewhere were they valued me. There’s no longevity for a volunteer that feels like hired free help, but there is when your volunteers feel valued and needed. Listening to your leaders is valuing them, and it’s also showing a need for them and their wisdom or experience.

We just had our end of the year debrief meeting/dinner with our small group leaders. It was super great because they were given the opportunity to be heard, and to ultimately make us better. Allowing our volunteers to serve in this way, has done wonders for our volunteer ministry. And I hope it does the same for your ministry. And if you are planning and debriefing with your volunteers, leave a comment, and let me know how. I’m always looking for better ways to do things.

Hope it helps,


Hey friends!

Below is another fantastic post from Junior High Ministry Veteran, Scott Rubin.

thinkerIt seemed like a great idea.
Bringing six 7th grade boys to the food pantry to serve under-resourced people in our community. Help them appreciate what they’ve been given. Grow a little compassion in their hearts. Do you see where this is going?

My mood might have been 2% down at the start, after getting an email from a mom a couple hours before. She was basically scolding me for not including her email address on my communication about the night’s details I’d sent 2 weeks before, and again 2 days before. I had sent the email to her husband’s address, but apparently sometimes he doesn’t forward them to her. My bad.

It was great to see all the guys as they arrived, and we goofed around for a few minutes before I pulled them all to the side to give them a real short “vision pep talk” about what we’d be doing and why. I felt like I was really rallying the troops for this night of service! One of the 6 put his hand up to stop me; I was ready for him to make an insightful observation about our serving. His comment? “I can juggle”. Ok! Glad we’re getting pumped up about helping neighbors in need.

Things started out decently; the “regular adult volunteers” at the pantry were really happy to have some extra help from our guys. We got assigned to pack some vegetables first. We had fun while we did it – and it was good to catch up with each of the guys. Our shift was only about 90 minutes … but after about 45, some complaining started. “I’m hungry!” “Didn’t you eat before you came?” “Yeah, but that was like 2 hours ago!” OK… I’m glad we’re getting the point of serving people who are really hungry. And then “I don’t want to touch those carrots. They’re wet! I hate carrots. Can’t we do something else?? Why do those guys get to do that, while we have to do this?”

Now without bragging, I’ve got to tell you that I’m pretty good with middle schoolers. Redirecting, refocusing, listening & adjusting. But for most of these guys, nothing was working. I really was feeling like this night was failing. At one point, I honestly wondered “Why am I doing this? There are plenty of other things I could be doing.”

But… there were 2 of the 6 who were almost completely dialed in, the whole night. When we took a break midway through, and I walked them around the facility showing them how it all worked, these two kept eye contact with me, and were really engaged, even if they didn’t say much. And they were trying their middle school best to not just help, but to help the other guys stay on task. But you know what I wanted? I wanted all 6 of them to be motivated like that. I didn’t want 4 pulling the other 2 into goofy-land. So it felt like “mostly failure” to me.

I don’t have a neat little tie-it-up-in-a-bow ending for this post. But on the way home, I felt like God was telling me, “I did more than you could see in those 2 seventh graders. And maybe in the other 4, as well.”

What feels like failure isn’t always failure…right? Right?

prepared-businessman1I wrote a post last week listing out 10 things that I had to become ok with as a small group leader. You can read it here. I had a lot of great conversations about it last week. Talking about the post got me thinking about the things I could’ve been prepared for. Although as a leader you must be ok with some things, you also as a leader can be better prepared for other things. So I thought I’d share ten things I needed to be prepared to do as a small group leader.

Set Boundaries – Letting your leaders know that it is ok for them to set boundaries with their students if need be. From experience, you may want to set boundaries from day one in a lot of areas especially these two:

  • Texting and phone calls – I know that we want to be available and reachable at all times, but you want to set some guidelines. For some students this may not be a problem, but for others you could run into all types of issue as the season goes on.
  • Hanging out – You definitely want to spend time with your group outside of the day you have group, but you need your own time to hang with other friends.  You can easily burn out if theres no life outside of your small group. Take a break. It’s ok.

Communicate Smarter – Setting up a group text with your students and an email group for the parents right away will be one of the smartest things you do. Text the students and also email their parents what’s going on. Because there is a huge chance your students won’t share with their parents what you need them to share, until the last minute or when it’s too late.

Inform Parents How You Will Discipline – Set up how you will discipline and inform parents right away. Nothing causes more problems then you as a leader disciplining students a certain way and the parents learning about the how the day you do it. So let them know how you will discipline so when their student tells them what happened they won’t be shocked.

How To Communicate Conflict – You may not always get the email saying that you are the parents favorite person. You may get an email from a parent disapproving of something you’ve said or done. Here is my response to confrontational emails “I’m sorry you feel that way. Is their a time we can talk in person or via phone about this?” email lacks context so whatever you say could be perceived the wrong way. If the issue can’t be resolved, let the ministry know so they can help resolve the issue and let them know sooner than later.

If you have to communicate something tough with a parent do it in person and in love. Bring the ministry in the loop right away.

Let Parents Know About The Sex/Pornography Talk – There are some lessons that leaders need to let parents know they are doing. So the parent can make the choice if they want their students to participate or not. There may be more topics, but sex and pornography are two examples of subjects that parents need to beware of. Tip: send parents your outline so they can have an idea of what will be discussed. This will save the ministry a lot of heartache. We know that the best setting for these issues to be discussed is small group but a better place is also the home . So lets give parents that respect and courtesy.

Not Drive Students – This may seem small but there is a legall limit to how many students can fit in a car. Leaders need to know that the last thing the ministry needs to be doing is explaining to a parent why their son/daughter was in a five seater car with 9 people. Students will pressure and you may seem cool for braking the law, but your breaking the law. Let students know up front that it’s not going to happen.

Set Language Standards – For some students you will have no problem but for some you may have to get a sensor button. haha Let students know up front the type of language you will not tolerate.

Talk About Social Media – This may need to be an ongoing conversation with students. Students need to know that they will be perceived by what they post, like and who they follow and friend. Don’t be afraid to call them out on questionable pictures, statuses and questionable friends or Instagram feeds.

Say No – Sometimes students and parents can take advantage of someone who has set out to care for them the way small group leaders care for them. So leaders need to know that it’s ok to say no. You don’t have to pay for every meal when you go out and you are not a personal taxi. It’s ok to say no!!

Deal With Non-Believing Parents- Your leaders are in a great position to be a witness to the students parents. I actually wrote a post about this awhile back (click here) I’ve seen God do some amazing things in this situation. Tip: Prayer is the key in this situation. Pray for wisdom and opportunities to share the love of Christ with the family. Whether it be through the student or one on one, pray for God’s intervention.

What would you add to the list?

hope it helps



Random Randomness

 —  September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

- If you are looking for a fantastic little book to help your small groups get to know one another, This Book Gets Around may be just the ticket! It’s like an interactive, get to know me, pass it around, journal sort of thing. Yep, that’s the perfect description!

– If you don’t play or care about Fantasy Football, skip this one.

Last night was our student ministries Fantasy Football draft, which was a fun fiasco. Two contributing factors to the chaos:
1) We decided to have the draft live at my house around our fire pit, figuring that would be a fun atmosphere. People arrived late and as we were all scrambling to get ready before the draft started, it became obvious my Wi-fi wouldn’t support a dozen people. With about 3 minutes until start, we all scrambled to get to another home down the street. As a result, we missed the opening bell, folks were auto-drafting people they didn’t want, etc.
2) Instead of a traditional “snake” draft, we did an auction draft with everybody starting with $250. The beauty of an auction draft is that you can get any player you want if you are willing to pay for him. Of course, due to our late start many of us had already paid big money auto drafting somebody we didn’t want!

– We are about to kick off a new Jesus-focused series in JH called, “I’m With This Guy!” Can’t wait to see it unfold and to see junior highers become more aware of and in love with our Savior.

– I recently made a commitment with our college pastor, Mike Brook, to start surfing two mornings a week. Because I’m typically at Starbucks by 6:30 a.m., it shouldn’t be too tough to be at the beach instead. It definitely falls into a mid-life crisis category of some sort…trying to regain some of the younger years.

– In two weeks, we are launching a new service in our student ministries at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. This means we will have five service times each week for families of teenagers to choose from: Saturday at 4:00 and 6:00 and Sunday at 9:00, 11:00 and 1:00. QUESTION: Does anybody out there do an afternoon youth service? If so, can you please share some tips/thoughts in the comments?

– It’s not too early to register for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference happening March 7-10. Thousands of men and women from the Youth Ministry Nation gathered in one place to celebrate the wonderful call to serving teenagers.