Recently, I got one of my good friends to help me co-lead my small group. Leading a small group is his very first taste of youth ministry and it has been such a cool thing to be a part of. One of the cool parts about helping him is realizing how much God has taught me about leading a small group over the past three years. I thought I would share three of the most important lessons that I shared with him:

-It’s all about the discussion! Small group isn’t the place the lecture. Too often, small group leaders take up their entire lesson sharing what they want to talk about. While I admire their passion for sharing what God has put on their heart, small group is a place where students learn and discover, and a part of the process is making them do a little work. Small group is a place for students to grow together as a group. They should be processing and engaging with each other. As a small group leader, we are simply there to facilitate a conversation. Always find a way to get them talking and engaging with the material. They should be speaking WAY more than you should be.

-Meet them where they are at. I feel like this is something that many first year small group leaders struggle with. Part of being a small group leader is being intuitive. You need to be able to feel out where your students are at. I think some first time leaders go into it expecting high school students to know a lot about the Bible already, so they plan lessons about advanced doctrine. The truth is, many students aren’t ready for that, many students still can’t even tell you the Gospel! We have to see where are students are at in their faith and meet them there. Don’t wait for them to catch up to where you want them to be, go back and help them get there.

-You have to invest in social stock. I was talking with a small group leader about spending time with students and he didn’t see the point of just getting lunch with a student without a deep, life-changing conversation. What he hadn’t realized yet is the power of social stock. You can’t expect every student to immediately open up to you. You need to build social stock. Every inside joke, every Starbucks run, every midnight Denny’s breakfast builds your stock with them, allowing them to learn to respect you, trust you, and feel comfortable being vulnerable around you. Social stock is what takes a student from just hearing you, to listening to you. It is what lets you speak truth into their lives. This social stock is one of the most powerful tools we have in relational ministry.

What is one thing you would make sure to tell a first time small group leader?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

As my high school group of guys have grown older I’ve noticed the amount or responsibilities and conflicts in schedule have grown.  Because our groups meet every Thursday night it’s easy for them to miss a week here and there.  However, as the obstacles and alternate opportunities grow their attendance starts to falter.  They tell me they love being their; however, they are just so bogged down with:

  • School Work
  • Sports Practice
  • Responsibilities At Home

I’m sure this list could continuously go on for many of you and that your groups face similar challenges.  The key to keeping the group strong is to enable it to grow outside of your allotted time.  That means connecting with teens multiple times during the week in a variety of ways.

That might seem fine to you; however, overwhelming to your volunteers. If you introduce that idea to them there might be push back or reluctance, and that’s okay.  You just need to help and show them how to grow outside the designated time.  To do that:

  • Give Leaders An Out – From time to time give your small group leaders permission to do something outside of the usual time or agenda.  Because time is so valuable allow them to sacrifice a night of the “usual youth ministry” to do something different.  Challenge them to embark in a service project instead of discussing service.  Encourage them to do something social that will build camaraderie.  Give them permission “to play”.
  • Extend An Invitation - Many leaders might not know where to start when it comes to investing in their group outside the weekend.  Invite them to join you when you are heading out to a game (Where their teens might be present) or on an outing your group might be planning.  By extending an invitation you are leading by example. 
  • Set Them Up For Success - On top of extending an invitation to join you equip them with resources that will help them connect with teens outside the group.  That might mean training them on social media etiquette, or giving them the tools for planning a night of laser tag.  As the youth minister of your church you have a wealth of resources and knowledge that your volunteers need access.  

The more a group can grow outside of the weekend or it’s usual time the stronger it will become.  It will teach the teens how to build relationships outside of a youth ministry setting.  It will also build confidence in your leaders because they’ll feel like they have ownership.  When your leaders are motivated to lead outside the group it extends your capacity to be present in the community.

How do you help your volunteers connect with teens outside the designated time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



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

I have been having discussions with my team lately about what ways we can make our ministry have more impact for less work. Where can we find some little things or create some little things to really help our students think more about their faith.

Shortly after talking about this with my wife came an email asking for me to be a summer camp staff reference. Within that reference they ask me about the students spiritual life. That’s when it hit me, what if I turned this into a time of talking with each one of my students who wants to work at camp.

This began my new criteria for each of my students asking me to be a reference. When that reference has something to do with faith, I sit down and ask them three questions:

  • How do you think your spiritual life is going right now?
  • What are some ways you can start to improve it? (this is the step where I can encourage and hold them accountable)
  • What do you hope to learn this summer at camp?

The cool thing is every student has been willing to answer this for me. Some of them might take a day or two to reflect on it and get back to me, others already know exactly how they are doing in their journey with Christ. The really awesome opportunity that has presented itself through this is that I get to talk one-on-one with each student who asks me to be a reference, pray with them, and then hold them accountable with some encouragement.

What are some ways that you are trying to make big impact with small movements?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.



Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day when we reflect on the sacrifice and leadership of not just a great man; but, a powerful church leader.  Honestly, I’ve never really celebrated or reflected on what this day has meant until recently.  It’s a day that not only commemorates how this country moved forward; but, the church as well.  It’s a day that commemorates how the church was a part of a great movement.

Your youth ministry isn’t just a program, activity or a club, it’s a movement.  It’s easy to forget how much of an impact your ministry can have on the community.  You get lost in the details of meetings, paperwork and disappointment.  For us it’s hard enough to:

  • Write A Talk
  • Plan A Game
  • Show A Video
  • Serve Pizza

For us to challenge, encourage and commission your teens to go out and change the world is exhausing.  Sometimes it’s not just about what you say; but, what you do.  So how do you, in the midst of the business, transfer your ministry into a movement?

  • Include Application: Whether it’s an activity, or a message make sure that there is an action step for you teens to take.  Give them a vision so that they are inspired and the steps that will take them there.  The best action steps are tangible, clear and simple.  Once you set them up for success you will see the momentum and enthusiasm build.  They’ll realize, “I can be a part of something.”
  • Empower Through Small Groups:  It takes a lot of work to create big crowd mission trips and events.  You have to multiply your efforts which can lead to error and stress.  With small groups you put ownership on the leaders who will empower their 6-8 students.  Once you get one group going, you can use them as an example and inspiration to get the other moving.
  • Partner With The Community: While working in the trenches and sitting with the students is important, a youth minister needs to be working with schools, community organizations and local businesses to really increase influence.  Sometimes change happens by working within the systems.  As a youth leader that means looking at yourself a community partner.

There are times when youth ministries just need to sit back, relax and have fun; however, in the end it needs to also move.  A youth ministry that moves is one that creates change.  A youth ministry that moves is one that grows.  Next time you feel the ministry is growing stale or mundane, ask yourself, “Where does this need to move?”

How do you make your ministry a movement?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

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



Here’s a little video made to help support the message of the Life Groups: STORIES weekend. Good, clean promotion and shows the impact a great leader and group can have on your life!

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)