In episode 103 of the Student Ministry Matters podcast (studentministrymatters.podbean.com), Chris Vines and I talk about the “ins and outs” of small groups in our student ministries. While many readers may think “All I have is a small group,” it is important to consider the value of reducing the size of your group into smaller segments. It is in these smaller groups that some of the deeper work can be accomplished.
What exactly are we talking about when we say small groups? Vines defines a small group in his context as “a discipleship group that meets together on a regular basis to encourage one another toward Christ-likeness.” I think this is a great definition for us to embrace. It tells us what small group ministry should be about. They aren’t just fellowship groups. These groups are designed for a purpose. In his setting, they are meant to serve as a place of discipleship, and discipleship is what it is all about. God has called us to help our students pursue Christ-likeness. Small groups can be a great tool for that endeavor.
Small groups provide at least three things of great value:
• They help students connect with one another on a deeper level. There are a lot of positives that happen in the large group, but connecting on a deeper level is not one of them. Small groups allow students an opportunity to get to know one another in a smaller space.
• Small groups give certain students opportunities to lead. You may have a student who is ready to step forward and flex some ministry muscles. Small groups are a great place for that to happen. You can shadow that young person for a while and coach them until they are ready to take over the group all by themselves.
• Small groups can stretch students out of their comfort zones. It is always easy to fade into the background in a larger group. When there are only 2-4 students in your group, every student can be encouraged to participate, and that participation stretches.
In addition to the values of small group ministry, there is always the question of what your group should look like or what it should include. Replicate Ministries led by Robby Gallaty, encourages that every small group includes four things — Bible engagement, Scripture memory, accountability and prayer.
There are many forms of Bible engagement, but we recommend SOAPing (Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer). Don’t neglect the other aspects. It is easy to make it all about studying the Bible and then praying at the end, but Scripture memory and accountability can be powerful components as your students move toward Christ-likeness.
One of the greatest things about small group ministry is the opportunity to take your students deeper into the Word. If you have a smaller youth group, small group ministry allows you to take those that are ready to a new level as they seek to follow Jesus.