There we were. Our small groups simply weren’t “working.”
Sure, there were weeks when leaders felt great about what they preached. It was usually the week when the same students would complain about their small group.
This is when I embarked on my grand experiment.
- To help students understand that Jesus is not a list of rules. When we come to grasp the depth of His unfailing love, that’s when we desire to live for Him.
- Ultimately see students and adults come to know that their life with Christ starts NOW.
First I started with small group leaders. We brainstormed ideas and got their frustrations on the table.
There was a RETRAINING on approach of our leaders:
- They have been reminded it’s not their job to save anyone. It’s the Holy Spirit’s “job” to move a heart. They have been encouraged to remember WHY we want students to live for Christ. (We love because He loved us first.)
- Small group time is about HOW to be WITH Jesus, before you live FOR Jesus. There can be a horse before the cart. If their heart doesn’t belong totally to Him, then the desire to live “right” may or may not be there, it also may just become a series of rules they follow.
- All curriculum, programming, and approach are just catalysts. Order creates a safe place for discussion. This also means that I allow my leaders to “teach at their own pace.” It isn’t about getting “through the lesson.” Instead, if students start asking the REAL questions about who Jesus is, then spend they spend their time there. It also means I allow each group to be at a different place in our curriculum. I check in and hold them accountable on how it is going.
- Try and Fail. I am trying discussion, object lessons, interactions, experiences, videos, and anything else that draws this idea of being close to Christ to students. As they are sharing their doubts, I am trying to find creative ways to explain ideas and get them involved. I am encouraging my leaders to do the same. If it doesn’t “work,” that’s alright.
- You may be one of many. I needed to help leaders feel less “pressure” that they had to be the “ONE” that got through to a student finally. Sometimes it takes multiple voices and TIME for a student to move forward in their lives with Christ.
For students this has meant:
- They are opening up more and more deeply about how they TRULY feel about Christ. They are wrestling with WHO HE says He is versus what others have told them.
- We are encouraging them to seek God with their whole heart and find Him. We are letting them know that the love of Christ isn’t “wishy-washy.” Yes, He loves us right where we are, and He loves us too much to allow them to be “stuck” in a mediocre life wandering without Him. One practical way I do this is every day I “text” them a devotion. It’s a simple idea and a verse or link to a verse. Then when we see each other I ask them what they learned this week.
- Allow them the space to doubt. This one’s hard. It does not mean we just let them believe whatever they want about sin and it’s effect on our lives. It’s now about pointing out WHY Jesus asks certain things of a life with Him. It’s about sharing our own stories of joy with Him and regret without.
It’s messy. It’s not easy. As students share more and more I see the pain that is so deep. Many of them have already experienced abandonment, abuse and loss at such early ages. They are angry and disappointed that God has allowed this. They are sharing so much. We are loving them. Jesus is big enough for this and He’s up for the challenge.
I guess in short, the experiment is about realizing it’s ok to believe Jesus wants a generation to belong to Him totally today, and He will do the work it will take to get them there.
What do you think?
Let me know your thoughts!