There are a ton of reasons small groups don’t work for people. It is easy to look at the group and point fingers at others but the best place to find some answers is to look closely at yourself. In my experience I’ve seen several attitudes that stop true community from forming in student small groups. I was able to share 4 of these pitfalls as a warning to students this week at our Life Group kickoff:

Just don’t say anything
This is the person who gets to group and refuses to say anything at all. He or she will not let ANYONE in or say ANYTHING. They will not be vulnerable and refuse to let someone in. They are simply putting in their time, or perhaps they were hurt in a previous group and don’t trust people out of the gate. Community can’t happen with that mindset.

The TMI guy
This is the classic “oversharer” the person who talks on and on about everything in their life. The person who refuses to stop talking about themselves, and redirects all of the conversations to cleverly make it about them. The person who won’t open up LOVES this person, so they can continue sitting on the sidelines of the group.

The 10% rule
This is the person who shares just enough to satisfy their leader – or shares enough of their story to get correction that doesn’t sting. They tell the story slanted to their perspective that favors them. Some choose to share just 10% – just enough to keep the conversation going without getting deep. Some share 90% – and leave out the last part to disguise the real problem or the severity of the issue.

Us vs. them
Community isn’t just you and your peers – it is a connection with your leaders as well. I was talking to one of our leaders this week who said “I think they would be surprised at what I would show up at if they just let me in.” Build then keep unity within your group. Students who deflect genuine community by attacking the leader never win. Community says we’re all in this together and rejects cliques and insiders/outsiders.

So what do we do?
1) Identify the walls and masks in your life
2) Make yourself vulnerable to the others in your group
3) Share … all of it
4) Lead others by your example and unity

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:9-12

JG

Was just thinking through some resources that I’d like to get into the hands of some key players in my youth ministry world, thought I would share a few things I’m processing to push my people (and myself) to the next level. Might inspire you to do the same:

For my upperclassmen Life Group leaders: Apologetics Bible
This year we’re giving all of our junior and senior Life Group leaders the Apologetics Bible from Sean McDowell. They’re handling some big questions and doubts and we want to equip them to build a healthy foundation for their beliefs. This is one of the tools we want to help with that journey! A steal at only $14 from Amazon.

For my underclassmen Life Group leaders: Emergency Response Handbook
New leaders need basic help – this little book gives you a quick list of things to do/not do and say/not say. Think of it as a primer and quick reference guide to a whole bunch of things they may encounter this year. It is still on sale (and has been for a long time) at SYM for $4.99. Incredible deal, we have it in the hands of every new leader on the team.

For my intern: Youthsphere
I actually want to take this course myself, but know it will tremendously benefit some of the younger youth workers out there. Youthsphere is an online youth ministry certificate program from my friend Doug Fields and a few other leading youth ministry experts. Pretty substantial investment, but one that will deliver big returns, too. Check out youthsphere right here and you can get 10% off using promocode: MTDB

For me: Take the Lid Off Your Church
I want to grow as a leader as well – I’m super excited to read Tony Morgan’s new book Take the Lid Off Your Church. He sent me a copy last week and I’m excited to dive in and be challenged by him as well. He’s one of the long-time bloggers I’ve followed for years – I read everything he writes! $2.99 on Amazon Kindle.

For the youth pastor buddy: The New Breed
I like to have a little gift when I have lunch with a youth worker in the area or someone comes to visit. Sometimes I have something around the office or an author copy of something I wrote – but I think I’m going to pick up a few copies of The New Breed by Jonathan McKee – looks like a great resource to help anyone working to develop a volunteer team. On closeout right now (since the 2nd edition is coming out this week I think) for $3.99!

JG



Darren Sutton is a youth worker and author of the new book, Everyone is Called to Youth Ministry. It released this week from LeaderTreks and is designed to help youth workers recruit, train and encourage a youth ministry team.

1 – you’re on a book writing roll right now! Tell us about your latest project!
Dude, I am so stoked!!  This book is coming out of LeaderTreks.  And when I talk about it, I feel like those geeky scientists who get way too passionate about their inanimate inventions!  :)  I basically bled my youth ministry volunteer philosophy on the page.  I believe every single person in the church has a place in your youth ministry – they just don’t know it yet.  This book tells you how to find them, what to do with them, and how Jesus can rock your YM world through adults walking alongside you in ministry.

2 – great so we’ve gotten the shameless plug out of the way – now tell other youth pastors a funny story from your time in the trenches:
Oh my gosh….they’re like Lays potato chips….you can never stop with just one!!  I serve in a beach community – most all my students are fit and health conscious…they won the anti-lotto when they got me!  One night on a mission trip, we were playing hacky sack…and i was dying to prove how limber and awesome fat guys could be!!  So I went for the rockin’ roundhouse over-the-head, triple gainer, heel-back-toe smash…and fell flat on my back…so hard it literally shook the concrete slab we were playing on and the basketball backboards in the gym we were playing in.  Those kids remember nothing else from that mission trip – and never miss an opportunity to remind me of it!  There’s also the time I mistyped a link address in a note I sent to our church e-mail list on behalf of my pastor…and it ended up linking to porn…and looked like it came from him.  Good times….good times.

3 – what are you most passionate about?
hacky sack….not really.  This is a trick question – because we all know we’re supposed to say Jesus.  But I will answer honestly….my family.  My wife and kids –  I am so out of my league and blessed beyond measure.  (I also like teenagers pretty well…and ice cream rounds out the trifecta.)

4 – you have the eyes of a ton of youth workers – what would you say to them?
STOP STARING!!  What I would really say is don’t give up. You might walk away from church work.  You might dump teenagers.  You might even throw in the towel on yourself.  But don’t give up on Jesus.  He’s the only thing worth going to the mat for….or the concrete slab….

5 – will you dedicate your next book to me?
I don’t know – will you write it with me?

JG

I’m super excited to invite you to Saddleback Church on October 4th – Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins are coming to The Refinery to teach their incredible Speaking to Teenagers seminar. They’ve made is super accessible for everyone in the area ($25/person) and it is something I’m SO pumped to be sitting under in a month. Join us!

A practical jam packed one day seminar for Youth workers and anyone else who teaches or speaks to teenagers Including pastors, volunteers, Sunday School teachers. If you teach once a quarter or twice a week, this day is for you.

You will leave this seminar knowing:

  • The crucial elements of effective communication
  • The essentials for understanding and connecting to a teenage audience
  • Keys for personal and spiritual preparation before speaking
  • The top 10 places to find great illustrations
  • How to use the right types of words to make God’s Word come alive for students
  • 7 proven tips to make stories more personal & effective
  • An approach to turn your experiences into powerful illustrations and connecting points
  • The powerful dynamics of humor and how to use it effectively
  • How to keep teenagers engaged and deepen their learning
  • How to avoid making the most common mistakes speakers make
  • Practical guidelines to enhance your body language and gestures
  • The secrets of time and timing in speaking
  • How to match the type of message to your unique situation

JG



Just wondering – are you headed to a youth ministry conference in the next 12 months? Vote in today’s poll! I’m going to be at several of them this year (you can check them out on the Youth Pastor 1st, Speaker Guy 2nd page) including the Simply Youth Ministry Conference – hope to see you there!

JG

Dare2Share and Greg Stier are doing a free webinar on “The Missing Link in Discipleship” tomorrow (Tuesday August 7th) that includes a free giveaway of my brand new book “Firing Jesus” to everyone who attends. The goal is to help youth leaders walk away with tools/ideas to become way more effective in equipping teens to share their faith.

  • Tuesday August 7th: 12:00-1:00 PM CST(10-11 AM Pacific, 11-Noon Mountain,1-2 PM Eastern)
  • Tuesday August 7th: 7:30-8:30 PM CST(5:30-6:30 PM Pacific, 6:30-7:30 PM Mountain,8:30-9:30 PM Eastern)

JG



Pumped that Doug Fields and I’s book 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders is available for just $2.99 today only (until 3pm MST). Check out Simply Youth Ministry during their 40-40-40 sale – if you’ve been thinking about picking it up for your Life Group leaders this fall – this is the best price all year for sure!

JG

Simply Youth Ministry is running a 1-DAY-ONLY sale on digital editoons of Group Magazine! Group is one of the best ministry team and volunteer training and education tools money can buy! Click here to get in on the deal!

JG