Wishing I could have a friendship with each and every student in my ministry is not realistic. Youth pastors are sometimes accused of having a few favorites, taking a special interest in a handful of students and hanging out with them all the time. And while that may be true, the greater truth is that when it comes to 100+ students, you can hardly remember all the names and say “Hi” to each of them on a Sunday morning. Students need more than just a “Hi” each week. Students need someone that is intentionally and consistently investing in their life, taking special interest in their spiritual development as they explore God and mature in their faith journey. I suppose someone needs to play favorites after all, it shouldn’t be solely the role of the youth pastor.
Programs are great teaching moments and momentum boosters, but authentic relationships is the glue of ministry – it keeps people together.
What’s my youth year resolution? In 2013 I plan to launch a small group movement for both middle school and high school students at my church. Connecting a student to an adult that is demonstrating an authentic relationship with God will benefit a student’s growth far more than any program. Life on life discipleship is not a new invention nor will it expire, this is what Jesus displayed for us. He did life with 12 men. He traveled with them, stayed up late with them, explored cities with them, went on camping trips with them, went hiking with them, went sailing with them…talked life with them, spoke truth to them, asked them the hard questions. There is no doubt according to scripture that these were monumental moments for the 12, that’s why we have them in writing.
Your leaders/volunteers may not be Jesus, but they do have the time to spend with students. How will they spend this time? How will they lead their group? What kind of adventures will they go on? Imagine how much impact a Christ following adult could have on 12 teenage lives.
Though I aspire to launch a small group movement for students, it begins with my leaders. Offer a small group or multiple small groups for your leaders – period. This not only helps in laying a foundation for students, but you can better grasp understanding of where they are at in their relationship with God and others. Seeing your leadership in a small group setting on a regular basis will hopefully be reflected in the way that they lead their small group.
Equipping them is key, find multiple ways to make this happen:
- Get personal. Spend time with each leader, cast vision for them, help them set goals.
- Develop a small group survival kit for them. More on this later.
- Take them to a conference or on a retreat. We are going to Orange in January.
- Show up at small group, let them know in advance. Give them feedback, applause and constructive criticism.
A few books to consider when initiating or developing a small group movement: