Had an incredible night tonight with our HSM Life Groups – here’s the hit list from our senior dinner this year:

  • The event was run almost completely by volunteers
  • Scrolling pictures of Life Groups (from all 4 years)
  • Great food, and plenty of it
  • Slips of paper to write affirmations on and put in an “affirm-mason” jar (groan! hahaha)
  • Student ministries challenge
  • Youth leader challenge
  • Sophomore in college challenge
  • We gave everyone the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman as a senior gift
  • Prayer for the leader of the group – circle up and pray around her/him
  • A final prayer from the leader to his/her group

The night was so incredible! Excited to potentially make this a new annual rite of passage.

JG

From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about a good problem – but still definitely a problem. Was hoping you could weigh in with your thoughts, too. Weigh in!

We have a few groups that are growing to the point where it is unsustainable for the two leaders that are already in place.  I’m looking for thoughts on what others would do in a similar circumstance.  Splitting the group is one thing we DON’T want to do.  Do we just add more leaders to the existing group?  Add a new group with no one in it and only add new students there?  I was just curious if you had any thoughts and if this was something anyone else is struggling with?

How would you answer her?

JG



Thought we would take a quick look this week at ways to communicate with students—ways that are Hot or Not. Here’s our take; feel free to offer your opinion in the comments as well:

HOT: Facebook
This is where our money is at right now—the highlight of the tools we’re using to communicate with students. The only downside is that a youth ministry page requires constant updates and management to really be effective. And there’s a desire to spend time on our OWN pages instead of building up the church site. Facebook is where it’s at, so get on board to get it mastered just in time for your students to move on to something else.

NOTE: Our junior high ministry uses Facebook, but not as strategically as high school. We walk a fine line due to the reality that Facebook has age restrictions, but most junior highers are still there.

NOT: Email
When you’re communicating to parents, email is as hot as can be. The older people get the more possessive/stagnant they become with technology. Students on the other hand are quick to jump on what is next, usually before adults have even heard of it. If you are emailing students and it is working, realize that it is a miracle of God and won’t last very long. Email is out.

HOT: Texting
Probably right up there with Facebook is texting—it comes in two flavors: individual and mass, and both work incredibly well. Use a service like Simply Text or Duffled to build a list of everyone, and don’t discount the power of a personal text from their small group leader or youth pastor. Texting is where it is at right now for sure.

NOT: Paper
You’ve gotten very good at Publisher 2003. I get it. You like clip art and flyers made on the church photocopier. We do too, but those days have past. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

HOT: Facebook event pages
Different from your main Facebook page are the event pages you create for service projects, mission trips, or special events. These are usually syncing with many students’ phones now, so you get calendar reminders as well as triggers built into to social media. A classic win-win-win situation.

HOT: Calendars
Calendars, if they make it home, have a tremendous return. Put a magnet on the back and you might get on the refrigerator for 2-3 months!

NOT: mass postcards in the mail
The shelf life is just too short for a postcard for a series and the cost is typically prohibitive, too. I love these and am sad to see them already fading out, but unless you’ve got cash to spare or a cheap printer to crank them out this one is dropping quickly.

HOT: individualized postcards from small group leaders
This one will never go out of style. Try it out this week: Pick up some postage-paid postcards and scribble out a few handwritten notes this week and see if it works. Or just trust us…no technology will ever replace the power of a handwritten note!

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.

Really enjoyed this post over on Matt and Steven’s Generation to Generation blog about Life Group leaders taking on tough topics during small group night. Here’s part of how they take it on, head there for the rest:

 

  • PRAY PRAY PRAY – The best thing you can do to prepare is seek out God’s direction. Know where God wants to lead your students and how he wants to speak through you.
  • Consider changing your location – In my small group, we meet at one of the guy’s houses every week. When we’ve planned these sensitive discussions, we try to go somewhere else that we won’t be overheard. This puts all the guys way more at ease and helps them be more open.
  • Have a game plan – Don’t go into something like this without having some kind of plan set out ahead of time. If you go in blind, it could end up making things more awkward and then you flounder around looking for ways to move forward.

JG



A youth worker sent me an email with a question about preparing for growth in their ministry as they were seeing larger classes in their children’s ministry heading their way – it looks like their ministry is on a path to double soon. Here’s part of how I replied to him, thought it may be helpful to you as well:

Infrastructure is absolutely key. I would definitely start building a team of leaders with all your energy. You might be tempted to think adding more programs but I think people and systems are the best choice.

Adding a position
Getting another staff person, even part-time, is a crap shoot. Flirt with it in your mind, but in my experience that is usually where it stays. Typically leadership waits to see results and staffs late, or staffs intentionall what is hurting instead of what is building. Ironic, but want to be real with you so you don’t get your hopes up. I do think it is time to ask for help before it is too late. And either way, start pouring in to your leaders and building a team of people, paid or not.

Core Leaders
Start a core team of people who are totally on board with the vision of your ministry and love and follow you. These are the people you’ll do life with and know the best. You need to trust them. They will trust you. You need to eat together, laugh together and develop some inside jokes and memories as soon as possible.

More Leaders
Next, I’d work on developing as many additional leaders as I could. Get your small groups/life groups super small next year, so they can scale and grow with more students as they start entering the ministry. If each group has 4 students, you could easily give them 6 the next year and 8 the year after. So make them all super small right now and get the rookies some experience and get ready with an infrastructure for growth.

Systems
This is where you can prepare for growth as well – make sure that all of your systems are ready to scale as well.  Take a look at your communications tools, your curriculum, your web presence, your parent ministry – all of these systems need to be able to scale up to double/triple their size. If not, you need to ditch the tool now before it dies under the strain of growth. Take care of these things now and adding students is a breeze.Wait and it will crush you and slow your momentum to a crawl.

Other random stuff/links to consider:

JG


Got a great question this week at YSPalooza in Orlando – do we allow parents to be small group leaders in our own ministry – specifically for their own teenagers? Our answer is yes at our church. We don’t prohibit or discourage it in any way. I do totally get the concept and value the idea of another adult Christian modeling faith and mentoring our children, so I get why some ministries may choose a different way. Vote now!

JG



Last week I ran around to a few Life Groups doing “drive-by” milk and cookies runs. It was so much fun! Here’s what I was hoping to accomplish:

  • Encourage some leaders: Picking out some leaders who I haven’t connected with or spent time with lately is essential.Young leaders, rookie leaders are good targets!
  • Help them finish strong: this time of year groups tend to get smaller and could fade here at the end. A little boost of energy/buzz this time of year.
  • Surprise some students: Nothing better than barging in the front door of a small group with a gallon of milk and 4 packages of cookies. I let the leaders know I’m coming, but keep students in the dark.

JG

Hey everyone from YS Palooza!

Thanks for making our youth ministry workshop on small group leaders so fun this weekend — I enjoyed meeting many of you and here are a bunch of links from the 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leader trainings I promised you as well:

JG