270208_2181937635525_2980948_nBeing a small group leader is great and scary at the same time. I took a group of guys from freshmen year to senior year.  It was great, but there were some things I had to learn to be ok with throughout the four years that I wish i knew at the beginning. It would’ve helped me shape the group better. Some of the things I had to learn to be ok with were great and others kind of came with the territory. Knowing these ten things now will definitely benefit my next group. So I thought I’d share my learnings.

  1. Be OK with it being more than bible study. – I thought I would be just doing a study and hanging out with some dudes. Little did I know, doing life together bonds you together like family. Even though they are all at different colleges, some local and some out of state, they know that I’m here for them if they ever need me. Love my boys.
  2. Be OK with just planting seeds. – I had guys in my group that came and left and I felt like they never fully got what I was trying to teach them. It would get me down at times. I had to remember that I’m called to plant the seeds of God’s word and God changes the heart. I must be ok with just planting seeds and trusting that God will produce the harvest.
  3. Be OK with students joining and leaving. – Whether it be because of a friend who’s joining another group or the season of the student’s life is super busy and they have to take a season off of small group, there is a chance students will leave. Tip: Celebrate the students who join and don’t take it personal when someone leaves. Make sure the door is always open for them to return.
  4. Be OK with your life changing. – My guys pushed me to be the example they needed me to be. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed because of my small group guys. They pushed me to really study God’s word, be a man of prayer and be a better husband/father. Tip: expect God to change your life for the better.
  5. Be OK with being interrupted. – There will be times that your small group will need you to be there during a time of crisis. From death in the family, to them making some huge mistakes and needing advice, know that they will need you at times unplanned.
  6. Be OK with not knowing what to say or do. – You will feel this way at times, but it’s ok.  It’s actually the best place to be, when it pushes you to lean on God and seek His wisdom. I lived in this area my first year leading a small group.
  7. Be OK with students being there for different reasons. – Some are there to be challenged in their faith and others are there just to hang with friends. I’ve had several of those types of students and all I can say is be patient and trust God.  I’ve seen students who were all about just hanging out one year and helping start a christian club at their school the next year. So be confident in God’s ability to change their direction.
  8. Be OK with having your faith stretched and strengthened. – Nothing stretches and strengthens your faith like a bunch of students trying to learn and grow in their walk with Christ.  I’ve seen God show up so many times in my guy’s life that it has strengthened my faith. I would study and teach things I thought I knew very well, until one of the guys would ask a great question that would challenge my thinking on the subject. Little did I know, God was using my group to stretch and grow my faith in Him. He will definitely do the same for you.
  9. Be OK with keeping parents on task. – Communicate to the parents what you expect of them in a loving and supportive way and address issues quickly as they arise.  TIP: If you want parents there on time, be there to greet them when they pull up every time. If you want them to pickup on time, end on time and greet them for pickup.
  10. Be OK with knowing you will make mistakes and/or fail. – You are not perfect and no one is expecting you to be. There will be things you will try to do that will not work out.  You will make mistakes and/or fail at times. It’s ok and we’ve all been there.  The goal is to learn from your mistakes and failures and minimize the return of the two in the same area.

What are some other things small group leaders have to be ok with leading a group?

hope it helps

ac

Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

As many of us attempt to get our students serving this summer, there is often a “trip” of some kind planned.   We plan, give packing lists, and prepare their hearts for  what’s ahead.   As the youth leader we are very focused on what OUR youth will get out of their time, and how it will impact them for eternal transformation.  This is the way it ought to be.

However…

This summer I am on the other side of the mission’s trip.   As an inner city ministry in an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we have gotten an inundation of groups wanting to come and be with us for a week.  It has been interesting to be the bridge between those coming, and those who will receive help.  This has got me thinking

As you take off for your trip have you considered what your APPROACH will be?

To The Situation You Will Serve:

It is important to prep your team for the situation they will encounter as much as possible.  What will they see, smell, experience?   Some circumstances of abject poverty or desolation will be shocking.  When you arrive at a site the focus needs to be totally on those you are giving to, while processing your own reactions to the time there.  Students need to be prepped to take the work they will be offering seriously, to stay consistent in their time and efforts,  and to debrief with you in the evenings after their days.

To The People You Will Be Serving:

Destitute people in difficult situations rarely define themselves this way.  Are we giving or stripping a person of their dignity?  Make sure you approach every person you serve with respect and honor.   Before you make any assumptions ASK a person what they would LIKE for you to do for them.  Our opinions of what we feel someone might need,  isn’t nearly as important as the way they will receive our offering.

To The Partnering Site:

Even if you are going with a missions organization there is a group on the receiving end.   Are you respecting their methods and approach to ministry?  Are you asking them what THEY would like from you?  Communication, and follow through of their requests is vital.  Remember they were here before you came and they will stay after you and your students  go home.

If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with it would be this.  Remember, it is a privilege and an honor that a community has invited you in to be with them.   Sometimes we and our students need them really more than they need us.



the_basics_video_curriculum

I’m excited to let you know about a new resource that Simply Youth Ministry and I will release next week – The Basics: Foundations for Your Faith is a new 4-week DVD curriculum for small groups. It might be a good series for a new believer’s class as well. Here’s a little blurb from the official description:

The best coaches, the most effective teachers, and the strongest leaders all know this truth: If you want to build something that endures, you have to start with the basics.

That idea applies to our spiritual journey, too. The Basics will help students explore, discuss, and apply some of the core truths of the Christian faith. The truths in this series aren’t called “basic” because they’re childish or simplistic; they’re “basic” because they’re foundational and essential to leading a life that honors God.

Each week, your teenagers will explore key Scriptures that relate to these topics, discuss the significance of each biblical truth, and consider how it relates to their lives today.

The Basics is ideal for students who have recently become Christ-followers or for teenagers who are exploring the claims and truths of the Christian faith—but students who’ve been followers of Jesus for years will benefit, too.

You can order it right here!

JG

Our high school ministry does really well with funny videos and usually comes up with some pretty strong programming bits for our youth group services. What I like about this video is that is sets up the students’ sharing time so well. Good stuff!

JG



stories_life_groups

Weekend Teaching Series: Life Group: STORIES (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Real-life stories where Christian Community makes a huge difference.
Service Length: 68 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we continued a regular 1-off we do on occasion called STORIES. Students share their life and faith on stage in front of their peers – the idea started a couple years ago and has been so successful we now have a Stories weekend every 4-5 months. This time the stories all focused on the power of Christian community, and we tied it into a mid-year push to join a Life Group as well. Really powerful stories of how God has used students, leaders and groups for His glory!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week the program was very straightforward – lots of student stories, some strong video content and great music. Not a whole lot of extra programming, but really well put together and powerful.

Music Playlist: Break Free, Always, Grace, Everything, Christ in Me

Favorite Moment: I loved the last song and how it tied into the message so well. “Let my story lift you high.” So strong – LOVE it when students share their faith on stage.

Up next: You Are Here [What On Earth Am I Here For? Campaign] (series premiere, week 1 of 6)

Andrew suggested this week’s poll question: when and where do your small groups meet? Would love to know what you’re doing and help others get an idea about what’s out there, too! In my current ministry we have small groups during the week, unattached to a program. How about you? Vote now!

JG



Was digging through some old files on our student ministry archives, and found this simple gem on how to pray for your small group leaders. Not sure who to credit (probably Matt McGill or Doug Fields). Good stuff here:

  • Put a couple calendar reminders for each day of your week as a reminder to pray for your small group leaders. (i.e. I pray for Bob and Jim on Tuesdays, Sue and Sammy on Wednesdays, etc,)
  • Look up the list of students in their small group and pray for each of them by name.
  • Pray for something very specific to happen with their small group. Send them an email letting them know about your prayer.
  • Put a post-it on your dashboard with one leader’s name and every time you get in your car to drive to work or small group…pray for that leader. Change it each week.
  • Write a letter to God on a postcard that is a prayer for that small group leader and send it to them in the mail.

JG

This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

QUESTIONS:
• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

QUESTIONS:
• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

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.