If you have worked with middle school students for any amount of time, you know how important relationships are in their development. A good youth worker can make a huge difference in a young student’s life.
For the past few years, I have invested in small groups by recruiting college students to work with my middle schoolers. As a pastor, I build into my leaders; and as a team we have developed strong relationships with our students and parents. However, I think things could be done better.
Over the past six months, I have been working on a model to engage students in small groups and also create a group they want to invite others. Here’s what my team and I have come up with.
Jesus’ ministry was about relationships. We use the exact same model. We pair a group of students with trained leaders to help lead them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Middle school students need to feel like they are a part of something bigger than their everyday lives, so we use that natural desire to plug students into Christ and deepen their relationship with Him by plugging them into groups.
As we examine scripture, we find multiple examples of Jesus Christ building relationships with others.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:18-22 NIV).
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”(John 4:10-12 NIV).
There are plenty of small group philosophies around. The one we have developed uses a student’s own interests in order to reach their friends. Middle school students are capable of changing their communities, but they must know how. Through pre-evangelism training, we teach them to make a difference in their friends, their communities, and their world.
Knowing that people seek out relationships, we show students how being a genuine friend can lead others to knowledge of Jesus Christ. If a student likes to play computer and video games but doesn’t care about sports, they are not likely to hang out with athletes. Students seek out others with the same interest. We want to teach students how to reach their friends who like to play video games.
Every student and adult has his or her own language. We want to help students speak their language for Jesus.