They were so mad at me. The freshman girls had just met Tina their small group leader and she was not what they expected. What they wanted was a cool college grad that could be their friend. What they got in turn was a grandmother who would change their world.
What made Tina a great small group leader was her ability to love and challenge her girls at the same time. She was not only present on Thursday nights when they met, but all four years of high school. She taught and showed them how to have faith. She equipped them for life after graduation. Small group leaders like Tina are only a piece of what makes a successful small group.
A truly healthy small group is one that has the ability to go deeper. To take your groups in a direction that will create growing disciples constantly pursuing their faith you need to make sure they:
Take Time To Share Life: There is so much material to cover that we sometimes forget to check in and ask a student, “What’s going on in your life?” Before we can tell them why something matters, we need to know what they are facing. When you share life you build intimacy and trust. When small groups have these characteristics they can engage in any conversation.
Stay Connected: It’s not enough to connect once a week, small group leaders need to check in with students (And their families), throughout the week. If you want your groups staying strong over the years it means becoming a part of other people’s lives. Small group leaders need to get to know the families, check-in with teens during the week and send them encouragements (i.e. birthday card). Teenagers need to know you care about them more than once a week.
Grow Outside: While a small group can go deep in your youth ministry setting, encouraging them to grow outside will take it to another level. Encourage your leaders to do something social (i.e. bowling) or service oriented (i.e. soup kitchen) so the group can grow in a new way. Groups that share Christian fellowship outside of the usual ministry setting will show teens how to share life with people after they graduate.
Consistently Pray: Small groups need to pray in order to withstand the challenges they might face. Build into the culture of your small groups time to pray at the beginning and the end of each session. Give them tools and opportunities (i.e. Eucharist Adoration) that will enable them to tap into the calling God has placed on the group. When prayer is present in a group, the students will build confidence in God’s presence.
Small groups are more than assigning a group of teenagers to a leader. They take commitment and vision. They need a framework that will take them deeper. When your groups go deeper not only will you prepare students for the journey ahead, but create change in their lives now.
How are you taking small groups deeper?