Think small. I don’t care how large your group is, think small . Frankly, students are not as impressed with a large youth group as adults are! Students have a need to feel a sense of belonging more than they have a need to be identified in a large youth group. I believe the best youth ministries all have a solid small group strategy. This week I had lunch with Ned Brines. Ned was in my youth group at the same time as Doug Fields. As we talked about his experience, he remembers much more about the small group he was in with Doug, Craig and I than he does about any of my Bible studies or special youth group activities. Part of a youth group experience is to develop a long lasting love for God and a need for community. Small groups do that more effectively than a large, sometimes not very personal group meeting.
Doug and others have written great material on the strategy of small groups. Let me list a number of small group tips that really make a difference.
- Include everyone in the discussion whenever possible.
- At the beginning, let everyone in the group talk, they need a victory. Have them share a non-threatening piece of information about themselves in the group.
- Four in a group is best, and include them in the conversation.
- Be aware of new people, and include them in the conversation.
- Remember that small groups often raise the tension level (because people can’t hide).
- Move from light to heavy discussion.
- Ask “I feel” rather than “I know” questions.
- The best questions do not have right or wrong answers.
- The longer the group is together, the better they will feel about the group.
- In a small group, it’s easier to share, pray, encourage and be personal than in a larger group.
- Do not allow one person to monopolize the conversation.
- Write out discussion questions.
- Avoid any put-downs.
- Discussion questions should be answerable.
- Affirm people for what they are saying.
- Allow people the right to pass and not share.
- Create a casual and relaxed atmosphere.
- Don’t always expound on the answer yourself.
- Call people by name.
- Let everyone take a turn at running the group.
- Eye contact and body language are important for the leader.
- When you ask someone to read, make sure he or she is able to read out loud or else don’t ask them.
- Get your group in a comfortable atmosphere where everyone can see each other’s eyes.
- Request confidentiality in the group.
I hope that gives you some helpful ideas to pass on to new small group leaders. Going small is big! Thanks for your leadership to make it happen.