I stood in the courtyard after church one Sunday and saw something that every youth pastor dreams of seeing. The services were over (yes we dream of that haha!) yet an entire middle school boys small group was still hanging out…with their leader. They weren’t “meeting” as a small group, just talking with their leader…not throwing a football, not playing tag, not making farting noises…though this happens most of the time. In this moment theses students were relationally engaged with their leader, looking up to him, and incredibly fixed on him.
What was different about this leader than many of my other leaders? Sure, he was “cool” but even still there was something different in the way these boys just continued in conversation beyond service letting out.
After doing some digging I came to find out that THIS SMALL GROUP LEADER IS A GREAT LISTENER.
He didn’t show up to tell them how to do life better. He didn’t show up to punch a volunteer clock. He certainly didn’t do it to feel better about himself. He wanted to hear, know and empathize with these middle school boys. No doubt, it worked. These boys opened up in a way that I didn’t see other boys opening up. Because these boys knew their small group leader cared more about them as a person rather than pushing an agenda the listening became mutual.
Many small group leaders and even youth pastors are trying to figure out how to “make this small group work” because the kids are way off topic, always making jokes, not respecting the leader, etc. We try to implement rules for the small group, come up with behavior agreements, and even get parents involved to help reinforce the idea of authority. I suggest we begin with listening. If our students/kids are feeling heard I strongly believe they are more likely to listen to the leader during and more importantly AFTER small group is over.