We are gearing up this week for the launch of our small group registration. I am really excited for students to sign up for a small groups for the upcoming school year (you can check out our online registration at hsmlifegroups.com). It got me thinking about what makes a successful small group. I think these 5 things, when all going at once, make a successful small group wherever you are at.
Trained, Caring Adult Leaders- There would be no high school small groups without our amazing adult group leaders. They are incredible and make everything possible. Not only is it important to get an adult high school group leader who genuinely loves students but it’s important to make sure they are trained well in how to lead and care for their groups. Each year we start off with a long training with all of our leaders and we meet a few times during the year as well for other trainings and classes as well. In these meetings we go over how to lead well, how to adjust the curriculum for your group, how to make an authentic community, what do when a student is in crisis and mandatory reports. If we can get leaders who care for their students and are trained on how to make the group the best it can possibly be for them, it’s unstoppable.
(There are tons of great leader and volunteer trainings on DYM. Click HERE to check them out.)
Open, Honest, Authentic Community- The whole point of small groups is to be open and honest with what is going on in your life and what is going on with your journey and relationship with God. I always tell my guys, “If you can’t be open and honest here where else are you being open and honest?” I truly believe life change happens in small groups when you have an authentic and real community and trained, caring leaders. God moves in mighty ways with that combination. In order to have an open, honest and authentic community it usually starts with the leader being open and honest and setting the ground rules for the group. Students need to know it’s a safe place of no judgement and that it is a place where we can talk about real things, real struggles and real celebrations in a community of students who will love and support each other.
Great Curriculum- Walking students through the Bible is huge. Having the right curriculum for your group is huge. The sweet thing is, there is a ton of great stuff out there for pretty cheap. It will take a little bit of shopping around to find the right stuff for your students but it’s out there. What I love more (if you have the resources and the time to do it) is customize curriculum for your students. You know your students better than anyone else. So if you can, make your own small group curriculum and pass it out to your leaders. We just switched to our own curriculum our team just made this last year and it turned out pretty great. It’s more in tune to what we feel our student need to be going through.
(There is a ton of great small group stuff on DYM as well. Click HERE to check it all out.)
Age and Gender Specific Groups- I know everyone has opinions on this, but I really think age and gender specific groups are huge to being successful. If we want an open, honest and authentic community there are some things guys will not be open and honest about if a girl is sitting in the circle with them. A girl will not be open and honest with certain things if a boy is in the room as well. Same with leaders, we want guy leaders counseling guys and we want girl leaders counseling girls. If you do not believe me, watch what a freshmen boy does and how he acts when a girl walks in the room. You will see.
Fun- Fun is huge in a successful small group. If it’s boring, students won’t show up. I think it’s okay to be studying the Bible and to have fun. Our leaders do an amazing job at making small groups something our students want to be at. They do a great job at making it a safe, fun, genuine place where they can be open honest with each other and have fun while doing it. It’s something the leader makes happen and it doesn’t seem forced. They just love what they do and it comes naturally. Each group is different on how they do it. I have seen groups rotate dinners each night, girls do pajama groups and snacks, groups go to Starbucks, small group in the jacuzzi and some groups just go out some week and go bowling. It’s about doing life together. Fun will come with trained leaders who make an authentic community with students. So have fun.