If you're reading this, chances are good that you're a dedicated group leader. But whether you're brand new to this role, or you've been doing it for years, there's one important thing you need to remember—your role as group leader goes beyond the time you spend together in group. Small-group ministry happens even when the group isn't actually together.
Student Small Group leaders play a vital role in the lives of teenagers. They are the people on the front lines interacting with them each week and the work they do, while incredibly challenging, is priceless.
Leading a student Small Group mirrors what happens in an adult group in many ways. Two of the most important elements of connecting with teens are also vital in being an effective adult Small Group leader. Let's take a look at these two important traits:
How well do you know the people in your small group? How well do they know you? Being personal means building individual connections with group members. We often talk about drive-thru and sit-down relational experiences. Sometimes life is busy, and all you have time for is a quick trip through the drive-thru. It isn't the best meal in the world, but it will sustain you for the short-term. Strive to make weekly personal drive-thru connections with your group members—quick little reminders to let them know they matter to you. This might be a quick text, stopping by their house, or just having a short conversation between services on a Sunday morning. These simple reminders help sustain your personal connection.
We can't, however, live on drive-thru all the time. We need to have actual sit-down meals when we take a little longer in order to have a more beneficial experience. Go to a student's soccer game, band concert, or play. Plan a get together over coffee or dinner with your families. What if you had a sit-down experience with every member of your group at least once a semester? How about once a month? This type of personal connection requires a bit of planning, but the result is well worth the investment of time.
Small-group leader, you probably don't hear it enough, but you matter. A lot. The work you do is incredible. The ministry you are part of needs you more than you realize.
I know that there is more to your life than the people in your small group. I know that it may seem impossible to find open space in your calendar to invest in them more than during your weekly meetings. But let me ask you this: Why did you want to lead a small group?
Seriously, why did you get into this role? I'm guessing it had something to do with wanting to help people navigate the crazy world we're living in, and helping them find and follow Jesus Christ. Isn't the kingdom of God worth our time and attention? I want to challenge you to see the potential your role offers, to dig just a little bit deeper and try something new. To those of you who not only lead an adult Small Group, but a student Small Group as well, thank you for investing in the lives of our students.
This article is excerpted from the training tool Effective Small Groups.
—Ryan Schaible is the Youth Ministries Director at Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois; copyright 2015 by Christianity Today.