Getting Ready for a Great School Year of Small Groups

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It’s July, but my mind has been on September for quite some time. One of my favorite parts of our youth ministry is our small groups, and it’s been a lot of fun to see how God has used our high school small groups to grow students in their relationship with Jesus. I’ve learned the hard way that small groups don’t just happen–they require a good amount of prayer and planning. If you’d like to launch an incredible small group ministry this fall, here are some of the things you need to be thinking about TODAY:

Ask God to provide great leaders. Being a small group leader is a shepherding role, and it requires God’s gifting and calling for someone to fill that role effectively. You cannot depend only on your connections and charm to find great leaders. As you build your team of small group leaders, understand that you’re not just looking for warm bodies to fill a space. Pray for each group that needs leaders, and ask God to send you people who will minister to teenagers, care for them, and continually point them toward Jesus.

Personally ask people to be leaders. Since being a small group leader of teenagers is such a unique opportunity, you need to make the pitch to potential leaders personally–over the phone or in person over coffee. As a serial introvert, this does not come naturally to me. However, I’ve found that it’s been well worth my time to take the time necessary to explain what a small group leader does, and why I think that person would do a great job leading a group.

Set up your leaders with solid curriculum for the whole year. In the past, I’ve hesitated to schedule the curriculum for our leaders, because I was worried I would box them in and stifle their creativity and leadership. However, I’ve found that leaders appreciate having their curriculum planned for them, because finding great curriculum can take a lot of time. In addition, I make it clear that leaders have the freedom to go in a different direction if they think it’s best for their group, which many of them do.

Have a leader kick-off/training dinner. I’m a big fan of steering away from unnecessary meetings, but this is one that is needed every year. We provide good food and make it clear what leaders’ roles, responsibilities, and resources are. Even though our small group leaders lead in teams of two or three, it can sometimes feel to leaders like they are on their own if we don’t help them see they are part of a team. This dinner helps them see they are on a team, even if they don’t lead in the same groups.

Plan a big “push” to get teenagers into groups. Not every teenager understands what a small group is or why they would really love being in one. Find a way to explain what small groups are that makes sense in your context, and make it easy for students to get into groups. There are many ways to do this, such as having a youth group where everyone spends the whole time in the group they would be a part of if they join a group, or having a group present what a “day in the life” of a small group is like.

What would you add to this list?

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