Small groups within the context of youth ministry can be amazing, if done right. So many life changing moments and so much spiritual maturity can take place in small groups. Small groups can be a powerful tool, but also are something that needs to be done right. So, whether you are starting small groups from scratch, or revamping your existing small groups here are some keys to dynamic small groups.
1. Define what you want
Like anything, you need to have a plan. Too many youth workers do this WAY to often, “yea small groups sound cool, let’s do them”. You need to define what you want from small groups and come up with a plan.
Are they just a time filler? What are they supposed to accomplish? If all goes according to plan what exactly do you want to see in students, leaders, the group, when they are over? Will they compliment the group message? Will they replace the group message time? Will the curriculum used be consistent between all of your groups? What do you want to accomplish and how will they work? Define what you want.
2. Train your leaders
I am a huge advocate of training leaders! Small groups are not an easy thing to lead, and for some leaders even the idea of leading a small group can be terrifying. I can’t tell you how many volunteers and youth workers have confessed to me that they experience major anxiety before they meet with their small groups. I once had a volunteer tell me that he has a hard time sleeping the night before, and his palms get sweaty when it’s almost time to break into small groups.
Train your leaders so they feel equipped as they head into small groups. Do NOT throw them in without giving them the proper tools to do the job. Teach them how to lead, how to discipline, how to get students to listen, how to get student to answer, and anything else they may run into. If you don’t know, that’s fine, but find resources with which to equip them.
3. Give them the attention that they deserve
Based on your plan of what you are trying to accomplish give them what they need to accomplish that. If they need more time in your programming, give it. If your leaders need more training, give it. If they need to be restructured, do it. If they need a boost or a tune up, do it.
Do not just get them going and then push them aside and hope they will run. If you want them to thrive continue to evaluate them and give them what they need to be healthy. For us, our small groups are just a piece of the larger program so it is easy for me to say “well they are happening so they are okay” when in fact they are not accomplishing what I want. It is important to evaluate that and correct it, give your small groups the attention that they deserve.
4. Be consistent
Keep the same students together and the same leader with them. I have seen small groups that switch it up every week but building relationships is just not the same that way. Give them a consistent group, a consistent leader, a consistent meeting time, a consistent format, they need to have that regularity to make small groups feel regular. Because if we are honest, they can be a bit awkward, but consistency breaks down that awkwardness and makes for a way better experience.
5. Transition from small groups to life groups
Small groups are great. Here is WHY they are great, because they are an intimate setting where deep relationships are formed, realness can take place, and accountability can happen. So, transition from a group that just meets together to a group that does life together. Make your small groups something that impacts lives, not just 30 minutes on a Wednesday night. Be intentional about building strong relationships and making small groups something that go beyond a single day. Transition from a small group to a life group.
Small groups can be an amazing tool in your ministry! What have you seen that has increased the effectiveness of small groups? Comment below and let us know!