On a recent visit with my family I had the chance to catch up with my nephew who is a small group leader in youth ministry and is also a second year college student studying Church Ministry. I wanted to know what this college sophomore would say to me about his experience as a small group leader and youth ministry volunteer. So over some delicious donuts at a coffee shop that I was way too “unhip” to be in, I drilled him. No, no I didn’t! Well, maybe a little. Okay, it was an everyday conversation about youth ministry between and aunt and her nephew.
I really did learn a lot and discovered that Kameron has already figured out 3 keys that make him a really dynamic small group leader. Here they are as he shared them with me…
Facilitate Jesus-centered community:
When and how often do you see the members of your small group?
Kameron: Probably 2-4 times a week. We encourage all of our small group members to attend a worship service, so usually we worship together. We have small groups during our weekly youth ministry night, so I see them again at youth group. My small group kids go to the school where I lead a campus group, so I see them at their school. I also check in with them consistently and might meet up with them by going to a game or inviting them out for coffee, so that would be 4 times. But it’s not just me they are connecting with. I’m just leading by example. I’m helping them build relationships with one another. Pursuing Jesus is central to these relationships. It’s important that they learn to support each other and their faith. That’s really the most powerful thing about the small group.
What I learned: Seeing students once a week is good, but we can do more. Kameron is seeing his kids between 3-4 times weekly. This means if a kid misses youth group he has other opportunities to connect with his small group and won’t feel disconnected. And Kameron isn’t waiting for students to just show up when they’re supposed to show up. He is reaching out to them, being an initiator, leading by example, but most importantly facilitating Jesus-centered community.
Be committed and available:
Youth group night – tell me what that looks like for you. When do you get to youth group, and what’s going on for you as a small group leader?
Kameron: Small group leaders arrive an hour early. We pray together and run through the plan for the night. Then we go out a greet kids while they are checking in. They all check in and come through one entrance. We see every student as they come in, no one is missed. If we aren’t part of the greeting team then we are connecting with students as they are waiting for youth group to start. When we break into small groups we can check in a little more because we’re with kids we’ve been building a relationship with. When youth is over we walk kids out and connect with parents. Basically the whole time I’m the youth pastor for my small group. I’m pretty focused on them.
What I learned: I’m impressed. My nephew doesn’t roll into youth ministry 20 minutes after start time. He is there early. And I’m impressed that the youth director facilitates this. When his small group kids get there, he’s positioned and ready to greet them and let them know someone cares about them. He also doesn’t take off before students leave. He is the first one there and the last one to go home. I love this. Presence is dynamic. When small group leaders come late and leave early, or are inconsistent with their schedule/commitment, it is hard for students to connect with them.
What do your small group members expect out of their relationship with you?
Kameron: They expect me to answer the phone if they need me and know that they can call. They expect me to support them and be there for them. I’m not just the guy at youth group. I’m a mentor, part of their family. They expect me to be a safe adult, someone they can turn to, be honest with, and trust.
What I learned: So there’s a lot of intentional relationship here. My nephew isn’t thrown a random group of students each week. His group isn’t constantly changing. He is serving a specific group of students that he is facilitating and experiencing community with. Through youth ministry he is able to set the bar for what it means do life together as the family of God – what it means for iron to sharpen iron.
So take some tips from a dynamic small group leader and college sophomore. If there is something Kameron shared that you aren’t already doing, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
What do you think makes a dynamic small group leader?