This Is Our Plan For Small Groups, What’s Yours?

I’ll be honest I was not always a fan of small groups for teens, it was too hard to please everyone and they got too cliquey.  With that said, I gave it some time, I sought wisdom and now I believe small groups are an essential part of our ministry.  Without them we wouldn’t have community and it would be a challenge to bring teens closer to Christ.
Regardless where you place small groups on your priorities list, if you want them to be successful, you need to have a plan.  This is what we do for our small groups:

  • Make Them Simple: We tell leaders that our groups are about two things: praying together and growing together.  It allows our leaders to focus on why they are there, to connect students to Christ.  If they are overwhelmed by the idea of speaking to teens, they just have to remember those two things. 
  • Curriculum Is A Guide: Our discussion questions and Bible references are important; however, it should never stand in the way of a teen opening him or herself up to the group.  If there is a life moment that someone needs to share, that takes precedent.  Our curriculum is a guide to move the relationships towards Christ.
  • Make Them Consistent: Our groups meet weekly throughout the year.  We do take a few breaks and the format relaxes in the summer; however, we believe consistency is key to a strong foundation.  While we ask leaders to commit for the year, we challenge and encourage them to stay with the teens throughout middle school and high school.  Most do.
  • Pair Leaders Up: Leaders are also paired up so that they can take a week or two off if something comes up or they need a break.  If a group can’t meet during our Thursday or Sunday night worship, we ask leaders to find a make up night, if not no big deal, just plan on meeting the next week.
  • Separate Grades And Genders: While great fellowship can happen amongst all teens, we’ve found that  having groups divided by grade and gender go deeper.  


Do we run these groups perfectly? No. But, we are seeing a lot of fruit.  Is our format set in stone? No. We know that as time changes so will our format, structure, curriculum, etc.  Whether or not small groups are your strength it’s important to have a plan.

What’s your plan for small groups?

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  • rel says:

    I am going to start using small groups in my ministry in the fall. Being a small church, the only practical division is by gender, since we don’t even have enough variety to divide the two groups by Jr/Sr High. I will be asking two young couples in the church to lead the groups, and my plan is for the groups to focus on 1) the leaders building relationships with the students and 2) the students building their “practical faith habits”.

  • rel,
    thanks for sharing and I would say that dividing gender is the best first step. You have to start small, but always think big.
    Lastly, like your focus, nice and clear. I’ll be praying for you, let me know if you need anything.

  • Zac Forget says:

    Hey Christopher (and rel,) I have a question for you.
    Why do you recommend separating by gender? Just because there’s more connection and less fear of speaking up? Or are there other reasons?
    Just curious 🙂
    Zac

  • Zac,

    Great question. Mainly because of the connection, we’ve found our guys are more willing to stay committed throughout high school and that the conversations go deeper. Plus when we get to subjects of sex and dating teens are going to open up more with someone of the same sex.
    With that said I think mixed groups can have deep and powerful conversations, just not as deep.
    Zac are your groups mixed?

    Chris

  • Zac Forget says:

    I definitely see how there are some discussions that go better with an all-guy or all-girl group.

    When I first became a co-leader of our youth group, there were 20-30 teens almost every week (and, due to the “unique” quality of the youth group -English speaking group in Mexico- most of the youth were from other churches.)

    We would have worship, games and message all together, then we would break apart, usually guys in one group and girls in the other group (sometimes we didn’t divide on gender, just divided to make the numbers smaller; it definitely depended on the subject material.)

    However, after some pretty big changes in the group, we stopped dividing the group. Shortly after the church closed, but I and the youth remained, so we turned it into more of a Bible study, but still a youth group. We were too small to divide be gender (usually around 5 guys and 10 girls) so we just kept it all together.

    I agree that sometimes we didn’t go as deep, but it was really cool to see the fellowship and friendship that came out of that Bible study.

  • Zac,
    Thanks for sharing that and I’ll agree you will have powerful discussions in mixed groups. For me it comes down to the long term vision of each group. Ideally we want a group of guys (or girls) to stick together from freshman year until they graduate, same leader. We also want to teach guys how to have deep intimate fellowship with other guys (a rarity these days).
    Doing same sexed groups are hard, fortunately, we have the size to do that, but we didn’t always. In the beginning some groups were real small so we just emphasized bring a friend, slowly over time they’ve grown.
    In the end there are may different ways to do fellowship successfully (as you have shown), thank you for sharing, I hope it encourages others who don’t have small groups yet to try something.