Absolutely loved this super-practical article from Gen 2 Gen Youth Ministry. It answers and gives some helpful pointers to a great question: how do I add/welcome in new students to an established small group? Really helpful stuff, here’s a clip, head there for the whole article – it make a great handout for your volunteers!

  • Don’t talk about the past. This might seem a little extreme at first glance, but let me explain. The more you use lines like, “Remember that time when…?” and “How great was it when…?!” the more you’ll make the new guy realize he’s new. Try to focus as much as possible on the present and future. Talk about where the group currently is, and the hopes you have for where you want them to be.
  • It’s not just awkward for the new guy. Chances are, your group may be a little uneasy about bringing in an “outsider” if they’re really well connected. Help them to see that they can’t be exclusive, and that everyone deserves an opportunity to be in a great youth group–even if it’s a little awkward at first.
  • Keep your lessons at a level everyone can understand. You may have students who’ve been Christians for a while and a new student might be new to this whole Christian thing. Keep your lessons interesting for both groups.



I shot out a quick note to our team this week right before our parent reception and Life Group Meet ‘N Greet. Just some quick reminders when partnering with parents!

  • Be full of grace and meekness.
  • Be positive. Attitude is everything!
  • Admit mistakes. It is OUR fault. Even when it is not our fault it is our fault.
  • If you are unclear in any way if you can accommodate a request, do not promise. Be realistic with the hope that you give a parent/student and their situation.
  • Work HARD to fix the problem. Get creative, leave no stone unturned looking for a solution. Nothing is worse than your supervisor finding a solution in 2 seconds that you should have found, too.
  • Pastor our people! We want to minister to parents, so pastor them, encourage them, brag on their kids, etc.
  • Give out our materials like candy! It will be a HIT with the parents and put right into their hands.
  • BE YOU. You are awesome. You are fun, you love this place and love these students.


I did a LIVE Curriculum giveaway (a $500 value) back in August and then left on vacation – and never picked a winner! I’m so sorry – I had such a great time away and then came back and didn’t give it another thought. This week I mentioned it to the guys at Simply Youth Ministry and they decided to give 2 more LIVE editions away to make up for me being an idiot! So congrats to ALL 3 winners:

Congrats! Thanks to everyone who entered!


Hilarious video by Parker and Travis we played at both Life Group leader training this weekend and our youth services. Loved it – a typical girl’s Life Group night in a nutshell!


HSM’s Life Groups are divided by grade, gender and geography – you can read more about that right here. Curious about your situation and was hoping you would vote in today’s poll – are your small groups divided by gender? Vote now.


The Power of Testimonies

 —  September 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

I love adding a testimony to my message. I think it makes the sermon totally come alive!

For HSM’s Fall Kickoff this year I taught a message to each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and for a couple of them I added a testimony to help give the talk a sense of realism and weight. The two students who shared, Jenna (an incoming freshman) and Bryce (starting his senior year), did an incredible job sharing their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. I was so proud of them – a couple incredibly mature students!

We don’t always have a testimony, but when we do:

  • We give students direction for their story – but not usually too much lead time
  • Students have to simply read their testimony on the stage – it is the great equalizer
  • All testimonies are edited by someone from the team
  • Parents have to be aware of the content and sign off on it being shared


Fun new video from HSM to promote the last day of Life Group registration! www.hsmlifegroups.com


I got to have lunch with one of our new small group leaders recently and he asked me about some of the tricks that I had learned during my time leading a small group. Despite me only having 3 years of small group experience, I realized that I have learned a lot in that time. Here are a few of the tips that really stuck out for him:

This is an awesome idea that I got from a pastor in Virginia. It is essentially a “pass-book.” In it, the student has the freedom to write whatever they want to their leader. Be prepared for anything! I’ve gotten pictures of dinosaurs, movie reviews, knock-knock jokes, and much MUCH more! But I’ve also gotten students to open up about school frustrations and family troubles. The cool thing is that the leader collects these books at the end of every meeting so that they can read them and write back to them. I love the ministry that I have been able to do through the use of those journals. Sometimes, it can be hard to give each student the “one-on-one” time that they deserve, so this is an awesome way to give each student individual attention every week!

Traditions have been so key to the bonding that I have seen in my small group. Have your leaders be on the look out for things that would be fun and unique for their group to do. One of the biggest traditions for my group is our once-a-year “let’s talk about sex” party. Being a guys small group, sex is a topic that gets brought up weekly, but we make sure to take out a week or two out of the year to focus specifically on sex and purity. I go all out for this party. I make decorate the room (I usually wait until the Valentine’s stuff goes on sale), I make sure there is plenty of food, and I even bake a cake. It is super fun and my guys look forward to it every year. Encourage your leaders to find their group’s tradition!

For some this might seem like a given, but there are too many small groups out there that aren’t serving together. Serving is super important not only for the awesome bonding that is provides, but because the Bible calls the Church to be serving. Serving is a great way to mix up the traditional 30 minute lesson and allows students to be practicing what they have been learning. It also deepens relationships in the group. It is crazy to see the difference a service project can make to a groups chemistry and health! Try to provide your small group leaders with information on upcoming service opportunities that they can be taking their groups on!

What are some small group tips that you have?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.