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Articles | Small Groups
KurtJohnston

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

Let’s spend this month talking about small groups! Small groups are nothing new, but many youth groups are just about to kick off a new season for the school year. And the beginning of a new small group run is a great time to remind yourself of some basic principles that may help get things off and running on the right foot.

* Small Groups Take Big Effort!

Depending on your small group strategy, it may be the highest-maintenance thing your ministry does. Finding leaders, training leaders (and training, and training and training), assigning groups, finding host homes or ample space in the church, encouraging leaders (and encouraging and encouraging and encouraging), finding the right curriculum, holding leaders accountable (and holding them accountable, and holding them accountable and holding them accountable), building relationships with the parents. And on and on and on. It’s tempting to wonder if all the effort is worth it. The answer, and I think most youth workers would agree, is a resounding YES!

* Small Groups Are Messy!

While it’s certainly true that some models are messier than others (decentralized small groups that exist as their own separate program are typically messier than centralized groups that are attached to an existing program, for instance), small groups are messy stuff, And that’s the way it’s supposed to be! Small groups are largely about the idea of sharing life together, and life is messy.

* Small Groups Are Scary!

Sometimes because we are so convinced in the power of small groups, us youth workers forget how scary they can be. Being attacked on the church patio by an over-eager (read desperate) youth worker asking if you’d be willing to commit meeting weekly with a dozen 7th grade boys is scary to most adults. The idea of letting your teenager spend prolonged time under the influence of another adult (whom you probably don’t know very well and possibly have never met) is scary for most parents. Sitting in a circle with a group of peers wondering when you will be asked to share your deepest, darkest sin is scary to most teenagers.  Of course, we’ve all learned that most of these fears are put to rest once a small group is off and running, but remember: Every year there are a whole bunch of volunteers, parents and teenagers entering the small group journey for the very first time. Acknowledge these fears instead of trying to minimize them.

* Small Groups Are Golden!

Big effort? Yep.  Messy? Check.  Scary. For sure.  But small groups are the “mother lode” of youth ministry! I’ve often said that if we were told our youth ministry could only do one thing (which would be kinda nice!), it would be small groups. Very little happens in the other areas of your youth ministry that can’t happen better in small groups. And because of this, they are well worth the effort, mess and fear that often comes with the package.

Wanna be a small group guru? It starts by recognizing some basic truths about the journey.

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