I had the opportunity to see my uncle and aunt a few times over Christmas break. I love them, they are hilarious. As long as my uncle can talk about Jesus, fishing and gardening, he is the happiest man alive. One thing that they love to talk about is hosting their small group at their house. They talk about how those are the people that “they do life with.” Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? He did just reveal himself to the disciples and send them away, he did life with them.
Shouldn’t Jesus be the model for our ministry?
I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta, GA, last May for Orange Conference. The Orange initiative is a product of the ReThink Group. Essentially, their philosophy is that it takes both the home (red) and church (yellow) must work together in order to raise Godly children.
When I was in Atlanta, I purchased a book called Lead Small by Reggie Joyner and Tom Shefchunus. I wanted to learn more about how to effectively lead a small group. I am definitely still learning, and some meetings are much better than others, but I hope that you find this information helpful!
Reggie is a master of using props in his preaching. Here is his introduction into the Lead Small philosophy.
Effective ways to lead a small group.
1) Be Present
One of the major thoughts behind small group ministry is connecting your faith to a community. It is amazing how encouraging it is for people to have a close-knit group that they can rely on. As a leader of a small group, you want to show up predictably, show up mentally and show up randomly.
Making your small group a priority and ensuring that you are there consistently is key. You become a fixture in their lives and they trust you more because they know that you won’t abandon them.
In our technologically advanced society, it is easy to find ourselves consistently distracted by cell phone, work, family life, among others. It is important that you are mentally present and focused on the lesson or the students who are in your small group.
Lastly, show up randomly. This is one that I struggle with. Find a basketball game, chorus concert, or performance that members of your small group are in and go. They will be extremely excited to see you there and it is an easy way to show that they are an important part of your life.
2) Create a safe place
You are the leader of your group. You should teach your group to value acceptance. You students are going to come to you with a wide array of issues and situations. They need to know that they are not the only ones who have those experiences.
Second, they must value confidentiality. In order to create a safe place where students feel free sharing about their lives and faith, they have to be confident that their thoughts will stay within the group.
Lastly, your group must learn to value honesty. If they can be honest, they will be themselves, share their doubts, ask questions and openly admit the things that they are struggling with. You must make sure that you guard their hearts, and help them deal
3) Partner with parents
This one may be one of the hardest parts for me. The Orange philosophy strongly believes that the home is an important part of the spiritual growth of children. It is important to cue the parent as to what you would like them to do. Give them handouts, give them resources, and help them lead their children.
It is extremely important to ensure that you honor the parent. Do not make comments to their kids about how you would have handled a situation differently or how a parents was completely unreasonable (even if they were). It is so easy to try to do that in order to be the “cool” leader, but it is more important to reinforce the parent and solidify the parent as a spiritual leader in the household.
4) Make it personal
It is so important to inspire the faith of youth through how you act our your faith. You should practice what you preach. Live in community, set priorities and be real. You need to have a community of your own peers to do life with. You cannot count the small group that you lead as ‘your small group.’
You need to set priorities and ensure that you are meeting the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of yourself, your spouse and your family. You cannot discuss authentic faith if you are not experiencing authentic faith yourself.
Lastly, be real. Find ways to relate to your small group without compromising who you truly are. It is more important for them to see someone who is growing, learning and trying to live out their faith than it is to have another friend.
5) Move them out
You should prepare your youth to move on to another small group, move to another church or to be ready to move on to whats next.
You have to realize that you will not be their small group leader forever. You need to prepare your youth to graduate to other classes and participate actively in other small groups that they join.
As students grow up, they will move away and have to make the decision of what church to join for themselves. You need to help them make mature decisions so that they choose a church with sound biblical teaching and an active ministries.
Lastly, it is your job to ensure that your small group is ready for whatever the next step in their life may be. Talk with them, be open, answer their questions, and help them make a smooth transition.
Leadership is difficult. I have found these points to be extremely helpful. I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord if he is calling you to lead a small group. You will never know the impact that you may have on the lives of your church youth.