youth worker, youth ministry, spring

Spring Forward with Small Groups

By Doug Franklin February 15, 2010

Spring is close, the time of year when our small groups begin to fall apart. Sports, plays, and spring break all take their toll on our small group program. The weak groups fail fast and the strong group lose their momentum. Small groups fail because most small group leaders are not consistent over the long haul. We need to keep in the mind the goal of discipleship and work to see our students grow all year round.

When I am out meeting with youth pastors and small group leaders, I hear the same things; groups start with a bang and within a few months things began to fall apart. The truth is, we love the idea of small groups and we see the benefits of them but we don’t know how to sustain them over the long haul. (Notice no one writes books like “maintaining small groups” or “small groups the second year – feel the excitement!”)

Small group failures are costly – students lose interest, group jealousy begins as some groups flourish and others break apart, and students leave youth group because their small group leader doesn’t care. 

A good small group ministry requires the full attention and creativity of a youth pastor and not just in August and September but year round. To help with this do bi-monthly evaluations of all small groups. Check three critical areas:

Focus of group – social vs. spiritual. If focus is social the group is headed for trouble.

Content – is the Bible study relevant to students’ lives that are in the group? Too often youth workers use the same curriculum for all their groups. I don’t understand what a freshman boy and senior girl have in common. Don’t be lazy – be creative. Create curriculum that will engage with students.

Attendance – students will only go if it’s beneficial. If attendance dips over a period of a month, see point 2.

Have a rescue team ready. This may be you or other youth ministry vets from your staff (It’s good to have a male and female on this team). The rescue team may need to change leaders, meeting times, group focus or may need to change the student mix in the group. Tip: be quick to respond because once you lose a group, the damage is done.

Give your staff tools that help them develop relationships with students. Seminars and training materials can be effective. In fact here at LeaderTreks, we have some great seminars and trainings that can help. But more importantly, I think small group leaders need goals. Sit down with each leader and give them a vision for their small group and how it supports the goals of the whole ministry. Write the goals down and keep staff accountable to the mission of their small group.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More