There are times I don’t really like my small group. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my 8th grade guys, I just don’t always look forward to small group. My guys are on the over-active side, they usually forget their Bibles, they rarely share a prayer request of greater consequence than ‘pray that my team wins our football game Saturday’ and I’m fairly certain that none of them has been introduced to a deodorant stick.
I typically hustle off to my small group after a busy Wednesday. Because Tuesdays are my first day in the office after the weekend, they are packed with all sorts of planning meetings which makes Wednesday the day I really hit the ground running and I typically run right through dinner and rush off to my small group without much preparation or prayer. As a result, I often have a small group experience that leaves me scratching my head and wondering if I’m a lunatic for devoting my entire adult life to the cause of young teen ministry.
In these moments, the Holy Spirit almost always gently hits me over the head with a baseball bat and reminds me why small groups are worth the effort. The effort that I often times simply fail to put in.
Small groups give students a place to belong. They help a larger youth ministry feel small. Small groups build community. They create a safe place for questions to be asked and struggles to be shared. Small groups build and strengthen friendships. They allow students to be known. Small groups help students build relationships with a caring adult. They create incredible memories. Small groups allow students to laugh when they want to laugh and cry when they need to cry. They give ownership to adult volunteers.
In short, small groups can be the backbone of a healthy youth ministry and the environment in which the most life-change happens. Small groups are a lot of work, but they are worth the effort.
I’m writing this on a Wednesday. On this particular Wednesday I’m running faster than usual. And my small group is looming just a few hours away. Because I know my 8th grade guys are worth it and because I’m convinced this small group is impacting their lives, I’m going to make sure I quit running early enough to put in the effort and forethought they deserve.