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My 8th grade small group last night, by the numbers:

- Students present: 14
- Leaders absent: 1
- Overwhelmed leaders present: 1 (yours truly)
- Oreo cookies consumed: 71
- Hamster Eulogies performed: 2
- References to cute girls: 9
- Shirtless wrestling matches: 3
- Boys locked into bathroom: 1
- Pairs of dirty socks worn as mittens: 1
- Unsuspecting faces rubbed by “mittens”: 11
- Prayer requests: 9
- Reports of answered prayer: 1
- Rounds of “chat or challenge”: 6
- Minutes of quality Bible discussion: 13
- Minutes of less-than-quality Bible discussion: 21
- Prayers of thankfulness for being allowed to work with JH guys by leaders on way home: 1

Thanks for being there for your students,

Kurt

@kurtjohnston

wipelefty
The above picture and hash tag may be the perfect summary of why I love junior high ministry SO much.

I employ an interesting small group strategy: I only lead 8th grade groups. Each year, I join a pre-existing 8th grade group, or start one with guys who weren’t in a group the previous year. Why? It’s selfish, really…it allows me to take a break from leading a group the following year without leaving students hanging without a leader after 7th grade.

Above is the picture of my new small group, which I co-lead with an AWESOME college student, Blake, who is studying youth ministry at a local Christian college. The picture complete with dog pile, goofy faces and fighting for attention is exhibit A for why junior high ministry is so fun. Exhibit B, of course, is the Hash Tag. We thought it would be cool to give our Life Group an official Hash Tag to use when posting various pictures we want to share with each other. #Wipelefty was picked as the result of a brief conversation we had earlier in the evening that went something like this:

JH guy #1: “Kurt, you’re a lefty?”
JH guy #2: “Do you wipe lefty, too?”
Me: “Yes, I do.”
JH guys #3,4,5,6,7: “We wipe lefty, too!”
JH guy #2: “So you wipe lefty…and you are eating pizza lefty!”
JH guy #1: “Hey, I figure it goes like this: You can wipe lefty, and you can eat pizza lefty…just DON’T wipe, with pizza, Lefty!”

Laughs all around. And the birth of #wipelefty

Why would you work with any other age group?



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

ac

 

live-x3I was talking with a youth worker today who was asking if LIVE Curriculum was worth it…
It is totally worth the investment of time and money. The price is more affordable than it looks. Think about all the messages LIVE offers, the consistency it provides, and it builds on itself. Win, Win, Win… And the investment of time is key. LIVE actually gives you time…it creates time in your life. I know that sounds weird, but with all the major prep complete you can grab a cup of coffee (or prune juice, I won’t judge) and have the lesson completely reviewed before your drink is gone leaving you margin in your schedule to meet with your leaders and students.

If you liked the FREE demos of LIVE Simply offers and want to take another step check out
Year With Jesus
Simple Truth or
Jesus-Centered Life
You and your leaders will be glad you did- mine are!



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

postcard
Another great guest post from my good friend, Scott Rubin:

I understand that the US Postal Service has it’s challenges these days. But for middle school ministry, taking a few minutes to actually handwrite a postcard to a student or 2 can be a relational win beyond what you might first guess! Here are just a few reasons:

1- Jr. highers don’t get a lot of snail mail… so your note will be special.
2- Who retrieves the mail in most houses? Parents! They’ll definitely read what you wrote, so you kind of get 2 audiences at once.
3- There’s not much room on a postcard – so you don’t have to write a lot!
4- There’s not much room on a postcard – so they don’t have to read a lot!
5- You can point out something specific that you appreciate about them.
6- Odds are high that they tack it up on their wall somewhere, reminding them of your ministry.

A mom came up to me last weekend, with tears in her eyes; one of those moments you’re not sure whether you’re about to hear something awful or awesome. “Nathaniel got the postcard you sent…and it meant the world to him.” Do you think Nathaniel mentioned anything to me about the postcard? Of course not! But I’ve heard from enough parents to know that these short, easy-to-write notes can become super-valuable bits of encouragement in a jr. higher’s life … and one more reason for them to connect with your ministry, where you can keep pointing them to Jesus.

Feel free to comment with other ways that you remind middle schoolers of their value!



LIVECollegeWell, it’s true…Simply Youth Ministry is giving away 72 weeks of the College LIVE curriculum for FREE.  Sheesh, that is amazing.  Before I say how this giveaway works, let me just briefly share a few things I love about this resource:

  1. It walks through books of the bible and gives your students a great understanding of the flow of each book.  
  2. Every teaching point in this curriculum points to God.  The goal here is to put the focus where it belongs.  In other words, as the content walks through the scriptures we learn about God’s reign (Kingdom), desires and intentions for our lives.
  3. It’s simple and clear, but there is a massive amount of content.  So, whether you use it for mentorship or as a small group resource, this can be a fantastic resource for teaching in larger contexts as well.  So those of you who do a large group gathering as well as small groups, you will be extra thankful!
  4. It’s written by people who work closely with college age people.  You will quickly notice how practical all this is for the issues college age people face on a daily basis.

If you’d like to take a closer look at this, you can get details as well as a free sample here.

Okay, so here is how the giveaway will work.  In the comment box below, tell me your craziest or favorite college ministry story this summer.  Winner will be announced on Wednesday.  It’s that simple.

Okay, go…..

Random Randomness

 —  August 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

Now that my blog has joined forces with the mighty More Than Dodgeball, I thought I’d continue some of the features that kept my junior high blog small and relatively unpopular. My “Random Randomness” posts are a good place to start.

- Just returned from four nights camping under the stars with 8 other families. We fished, hiked, shot BB guns, faced down bears (Katie Edwards did, anyway) and sat around the fire. A really lazy way to end an outrageously busy summer.

- Another thing we did while camping was play lots and lots of KanJam, the game you really must purchase for your youth group.

- May I recommend a short shopping list for your junior high ministry this fall?

  1. This Book Gets Around.  If you are looking for a fun way to help your students (in small groups, at a retreat, etc.) get to know each other a little better, this is the way to go. Such a fun idea. Or, buy some 10-packs and ask your students to take them to school to learn more about their friends!
  2. LIVE small group curriculum. There simply is not a better small group curriculum out there, in my opinion.
  3. The Challenge. Almost every junior higher loves games. Almost every junior high youth worker hates coming up with them. Make everybody happy!
  4. 99 Thoughts About Junior High Ministry. There are a few great junior high/middle school ministry books out there, and they are all too long for your volunteers to read! Give your volunteer team a pocketful of confidence with this fantastic little book.

- Want a free resource…that kicks butt?  Point your hurting students to Teen Christian Ministries. I love this little web show that is making a huge impact on the teenagers who tune in!

- Have you seen The Way, Way Back?  If not, write it into your schedule this week before it disappears. It’s a movie every youth worker needs to see.