What makes a great small group discussion for you?  Is it the teens consistently talking?  Is it about controversial debates?  Is it one teen opening up about a huge issue in their life?  What makes a great small group discussion will differ from person to person; however, if what you are talking about isn’t bringing the group closer together and to Christ you might want to rethink structure and content.

While you can’t force deep and engaging conversation there are things you can do to create a framework that will make them possible.

Some of those factors are:

Preparing Your Team In Advance – Not that conversations need to be orchestrated; however, if you want teens to go deeper in certain areas of their faith you need to create a path to lead them down.  This means preparing your small group ministers to lead them.  Get them the questions out early enough, make sure they don’t have any questions and give them resources to widen their knowledge of the subject.

Setting Up The Right Environment – If teens are uncomfortable they’ll be distracted from engaging in conversation.  Make sure the room is clean, comfortable and set up for engaging conversation.

Embracing Silence – If it’s a heavy subject give them the time to process the question.  The tendency is to blow through the questions because silence is awkward; however, you might be cutting off a thought, question or idea that will move the discussion to a deeper level.

Gauging The Mood – It might not be the right night to talk about certain subjects; therefore, don’t force it.  If there is pushback on a subject ask the teens, “Why?” if they aren’t ready to talk about it, then have the conversation move to something they want to discuss.  By gauging the mood you are showing them that you care about what’s on their heart and mind.

Great discussions are ones that move us into a deeper relationship with one another.  However, don’t get frustrated if every small group isn’t profound and deep.  There are going to be times when you are amazed by what comes forth and others when you feel like a failure.  Small groups need to be organic, which means growth.  But a small group that grows through discussion is one that will strengthen and last.

What else can create great discussion in small group?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

You know these daily deals go fast – last month’s big sale sold out in 4 hours! Get in on this one quick if you’re interested. A solid resource to put in the hands of your volunteers or small group leaders to equip them to handle the tough stuff students throw their way. Half price today only!

JG



As student minister’s one thing we have to always strive for is to be a perpetual student of our craft. We can never know too much about youth ministry. This is one thing that I defiantly do not have a problem with. No matter what I have done in my life I always threw myself into it full force. When I played drums in band in high school I studied, not only in school, but on my own. I listen to instructional by well known drummers at the time, I went to drum clinics, and dissected drums solos by popular drummers. When I joined the Army as a Military Police officer, I took baton instructor classes, correspondence courses, and unarmed self defense training. As youth ministers we must constantly be students of our own art. How do we do that? Here are some quick sources for training!

1: The Bible: I know I know, you’ve heard it a million times but that doesn’t make it any less true. The better your relationship with God the better off your ministry is.

2: Blogs: The cheapest form of training out there! Find a youth ministry mentor such as Josh Griffin at morethandodgeball.com, Doug Fields’ Blog, Stephanie Caro’s blog, or even my own at lifeintheymfishbowl.com. Want find great ideas to try? Read a blog. Want training on ideas to help grow your youth group? Read a Blog. Also there are non blog websites out there that are great. One I love is youthministry.com. Great articles and great ideas.

3: Certificates: Many colleges offer online youth minister training for a small price. Plus you get a handy certificate to hang up on the wall. Another place to check out is youthsphere.tv. This site offers a great certificate and great training under the giants of youth ministry. Use promo code MTDB for 10% off, too!

4: Group Magazine: Some of the best youth ministry ideas delivered to your door once every two months. Nuff said!

5: Other youth ministers: Your local youth minister’s network is a great source of training. You can pick up great life lessons while sitting down for a cup of coffee.

6: Youth Minister’s support networks: many denominations offer great youth minister support networks who can offer great advice and ideas.

7: Conferences: I’ve often heard conferences called the poor man’s seminary. That’s about the truth. With SYMC coming up you have the option of the large conference and it’s many options but also don’t over look the smaller local conferences that are out there, if money is an issue.

8: College: This option is not for everyone, but if you feel like God is calling you for a deeper commitment this is a great option. I’m currently enrolled online for a degree with a Student Ministry emphasis. There are many great colleges that offer Youth Ministry Masters degrees also many Seminaries that offer degrees with youth ministry minors.

9: Books: Some of the best training I’ve ever received was through two books, “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” and “My First Two Years in Youth Ministry” both by Doug Fields. Books are the best way to glean ideas from well renowned youth ministers. Not just Doug but many giants of youth ministry have published books that are great training resources.

10: Last but not least: This one may strike you as odd…..your senior pastor. I know your thinking “He did not just say I could get training from the old man/woman” Yep I went there! Some of our senior pastors were youth ministers once. They can be great resources for ideas and wonderful sounding blocks. I was thinking about revamping our “Sunday School” class and asked our senior pastor what he thought. Low and behold we had the same idea and he had many small details that I hadn’t pondered.

If you look around there are many great resources out there for youth ministers to learn from. We really have no excuse to not stay on top of our game. You owe it to you church, your kids, and yourself to be the most well trained youth minister you can be.

Kevin Patterson is the youth pastor at Dawson Springs First Baptist Church in Dawson Spring, KY. Be sure to check out http://www.lifeintheymfishbowl.blogspot.com/ to regularly get in on his learnings, too!

Beyond excited when the gang over at Simply Youth Ministry told me that they were doing a 1-day sale on Doug Fields and I’s book, 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders.The book is normally $6.99 – TODAY only it is $2.99!

A small group is a powerful place!

Lives are changed. Important decisions are made. Spiritual growth is enhanced. Jokes are shared. Lifelong friendships are formed. Cliques disappear when a small group becomes a loving community. The result? Spiritually mature teenagers, empowered leaders, and a healthy youth ministry.

Good small groups requires leaders–and that’s where you come in. If you’re a small group leader, you may have lots of questions: Am I making a difference? Am I wisely investing my time, energy, and resources? Can I really do this? If so, how can I maximize my impact in teenagers’ lives?

Find the answers you’re looking for in 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders. This book delivers insights, tips, and veteran advice for anyone leading a small group (from young to old). When these bite-size, consumable pieces of wisdom are put into play, leaders will be better equipped and more confident. This book is all about setting them up to win.

UPDATE: They sold out of the deal already! Wow!

JG



Thought this little video from YS was clever and rereshing today – youth ministry bootcamp!

JG

SYMC

I’m beyond excited to hang out with youth workers at the Simply Youth MInistry Conference this year in Louisville – I’m actually taking our high school team along with on the trip and think it is going to be game-changing for our ministry.

Want to join us? Killer lineup, including Francis Chan, Derwin Gray, Jon Acuff, Shane & Shane, Jeremy Camp and 77 more speakers, musicians and mentors. Couldn’t be more excited! The Early Bird rate expires on October 31 so get in now!

JG



In thirty years of youth ministry, I can honestly say I’ve tried every recruiting style possible. Take a look at these four fall-back recruiting approaches:

The “Cruise Director
‘Come join the youth team! Free trips, free food, hotels, fun and you’ll have a great time! No, you won’t have to chaperone at lock-ins!’”

The “Beggar
‘If you don’t join come on this trip, we’ll have to cancel it and lose our $2,000 deposit. We really, really, really need you! PLEASE???????’”

The “Lone Ranger
‘Hey, great having you on the team! Here’s your job description. Thanks for doing your part. You know? Let me do that for you…the kids are used to it being done a certain way. Oh, and I’ll do that, too. Why don’t you just watch for awhile?’”

The “Do-It-Yourselfer
Building a team? What’s that? Nobody wants to volunteer so I don’t even ask.’”
See yourself here? (I’m a combo of the Cruise Director and the Lone Ranger.)

Don’t do these!

Instead, I’ve learned a little something from Jesus’ example when he put a pretty awesome team of 12 together. I call it, “The Five I’s:

Invoke: Bring the Holy Spirit into the process anything. Go somewhere and pray.

Identify: Listen for who the Spirit lifts up. Identify those people He reveals would be an asset to the team. Don’t assume anyone will say “no.”

Invite: Talk to them one-on-one and ask them to pray for a week before saying “yes” or “no.”

Initiate: Let them come and check things out; give them a peek into what you’re asking them to do.

Inform: Hand them a volunteer packet so they can make a well-informed decision. Info would include a specific job description, volunteer guidelines, a ministry covenant, program purpose statement, 12 month youth ministry calendar and something fun, like a $5 card from Starbucks to enjoy a hot cuppa while reading and praying.

That’s how I do it, anyway. Hoep this helps!

Stephanie Caro is a youth ministry blogger at Small Church Youth Ministry and has written a book on the subject you might want to check out, too.

This is the first week of HSM’s small groups all together at church! In recent years we’ve taken a few weeks before we split up into homes and walk students and leaders through the first few nights together. It gives us a chance to be relational with all of our leaders and to pour into and train them while we’re getting their groups off the ground.

So tonight I was walking all of our Life Group students through HSM’s small group commitment and covenant sheet. Earlier today I had a risky idea tied to it that I wasn’t sure would work … but it did! I wanted to illustrate the speed and the reach of gossip – and how it has no place in our small groups because of its destructive power. I sent a text message to a few students and leaders, and asked anyone if they got the message to forward it to a few other people who were in the room as well.

Did people look at their phones during the rest of the message? Occasionally, yes. But it was worth it. At the end of the challenge (which included a strong word to uphold confidentiality and fight the temptation to gossip) I asked how many of them got the message. A huge percentage of the group had already gotten the text! It had spread quietly and like wildfire through the room – I had no idea if the social networks of friends would extend to the whole room, but it sure did.

All it said was: “this is how fast and how far gossip spreads. :)

I hope it was a meaningful moment for everyone and a fresh take on the old game of “telephone” in the past.

JG