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14 Aug 2023

Starting Off Small Groups Right

By |2023-08-14T10:47:41-07:00August 14th, 2023|Small Groups|3 Comments

As the leaves start to change and the air gets crisper (at least there’s a rumor cold air is happening somewhere around here…), it’s the perfect time to kick off small groups within your youth ministry. I’m excited to share some practical tips with you that will help you create an enriching and transformative experience for your students this fall. Let’s dive in:

1. Select Clear Topics and Themes:

Imagine sitting down with your small group, ready to dive into meaningful conversations. To make that happen, choose topics and themes that genuinely resonate with your students. Think about their needs, interests, and challenges. When you address subjects that matter to them, you’ll spark engagement and encourage everyone to actively participate. 

Want to make it a double win? Get on board with your church’s vision statement and show how what you’re talking about correlates to that!

2. Recruit and Train Leaders:

Leaders are the heartbeat of your small groups. Identify individuals who have a passion for mentoring and guiding others. These leaders don’t have to be experts; they just need a heart that cares. Equip them with training, resources, and ongoing support. When leaders feel confident and well-prepared, their guidance will inspire great discussions and growth.

Check out some of the resources down below for more info!

3. Define Group Guidelines:

Creating a safe and open space is huge for effective small groups. Sit down with your leaders and craft clear group guidelines together. Address behaviors, confidentiality, and mutual respect. These guidelines set the tone for an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, questions, and struggles.

Make sure students are on board with these guidelines and are willing to participate with these in mind!

4. Incorporate Prayer and Worship:

Picture your small group gathering around in a circle, connecting not only with each other but also with Jesus. Start or end each session with prayer and worship. It deepens the spiritual experience, reminding everyone that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. This practice also fosters unity and encourages students to explore their faith journey together.

Remind students they aren’t just here for fellowship! They’re here to experience the life changing work of God!

5. Celebrate Milestones:

We all love celebrating victories, right? Well, your small groups should be no different. Recognize and celebrate milestones—whether it’s someone’s spiritual breakthrough, a goal achieved, or personal challenges overcome. These celebrations create a sense of accomplishment and belonging, making your small group feel like a tight-knit community.

As you embark on this exciting journey of fall small groups, remember that you’re not just organizing meetings; you’re fostering a space for growth, connection, and transformation. Keep these tips close as you create a nurturing environment for your students.

Need some resources to get your fall in full swing? Check these awesome Co-Leader resources out!

29 Aug 2022

Setting Up Small Groups to Win!

By |2022-09-02T07:00:54-07:00August 29th, 2022|Small Groups, Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Ministry Ideas|35 Comments

It’s the kick-off season for ministry! You’ve spent the summer assembling your team, ensuring each group has the right leader, and now it’s time to get these leaders with their new students. Here are some quick tips for making sure your leaders have what they need to be the best small group leaders they can be!

Get Leaders Curriculum Quickly!

If the main thing you want leaders to do is telling their students the truths about Jesus, then make sure they have the curriculum in their hands as soon as possible!

Remember that you have recruited teachers and engineers and stay-at-home moms, and other busy adults. Make sure you aren’t getting them things at the last minute so that they can be totally prepared when they walk into a small group!

Communication is Key!

Have a rhythm of communicating with your small group leaders. Whether that means you email them once a week or have an ongoing text message thread, make sure your leaders know you are thinking about them and are available!

Practical Tips help leaders win!

It may be old hat to you, but All of the tips and tricks that you have learned over the years as a youth pastor are golden nuggets to share with your small group leaders!

Make a list of five or seven and send them out one at a time in your regular communication. Think of small bite-size tips like “Make a note on your phone about each student, where they go to school, and their favorite candy.”

Putting practical tips in your volunteers’ hands can help them win!

Small Group Your Small Group Leaders!

We want our small group leaders to be in the lives of their students. We want them to take them out for coffee and to go to their sporting events, and text them throughout the week to let them know they are praying for them.

What if you did that for your small group leaders? What if you invited them out to coffee regularly and sent them a text every so often just to let them know that you are grateful they were on the team and that you are praying for them specifically?

If you treat your volunteers like your own personal small group, they will see what it’s like to lead. Your example will show them how they can in turn minister to their own students. And the biggest win of all is your small group leaders feel loved and ministered to!

What else?

If you were going to add one more tip to this list, what would it be? How would you help your small group leaders win? We’re always looking for great ideas!

16 Sep 2021

Are You Proactive Or Reactive With Parents?

By |2021-09-15T20:11:04-07:00September 16th, 2021|Leadership, Parents, Small Groups, Volunteers, Youth Ministry Hacks|4 Comments

It really is interesting how many parents drop off their students and never meet the people they are dropping off their student to be with for two hours a week. It’s also really interesting for how many leaders have not reached out to know parents of their students.

We have an incredible opportunity to not only minister to our students, but their families as well.

We all have heard stories of students who first started coming to church, got saved and then their families started to attend as well. When we are intentional with our students families, we can really partner with parents/guardians because they are with their students the other 166 hours during the week compared to our 2-3 hours.

This is why in this season we have been really challenging those who lead small groups to be intentional about reaching out to, not just the student, but their families as well. We should be making the first move. We want to be proactive in making the first connection.

Here is the ask of our leaders: Make one connection per week with one family.

If you go on Yelp and look at reviews, most of the time you will see the negative ones. Why? Because when things are good, people don’t really write reviews because they don’t think about it. No one talks to the manager at a store when things are going well. People only tend to write reviews when they have a bad experience. People only ask to speak to a manger when something is wrong.

Same with parents. It could be all good and no one will say anything but far too often we are reactive with parents. When something happens, thats when we make the first connection with them. We are already starting in the negative.

When we are proactive, we can start to build relational equity, build up the positive and IF something goes down, we already know the parents/guardians. It will not only set your ministry up better but your volunteers to win with the families as well.

What could this look like?

  • For some families, they might come to church, so just physically meeting them and knowing their name and getting their cell phone number would be a win.
  • For some, just letting their parents know how awesome their kid is after group or through email throughout the week. Parents love to hear how awesome their kids are.
  • For some, you might be close to their family and be invited to dinners. Do it. Any time you can be with the family, it’s a good thing.
  • Take 30 seconds and send them a text asking how they are and how you can pray for them specifically. You will be amazed how simple and powerful that is.
  • Shoot an email updating them on what conversations and group has been like (obviously keeping the confidence of your students) but parents love to be in the know.
  • Connect with the parents/guardians via social media. Most of GenZ parents have it. It could be an easy way to share a story or make a connection with them.

As we have been pushing this with our small group leaders it’s been awesome to see the proactive relationships blossoming.

@justinknowles3

17 Nov 2020

Jessica Sanchez: Why Celebrate Advent in 2020?

By |2021-05-18T14:19:16-07:00November 17th, 2020|Help Me With..., Leadership, online youth group, Small Groups, Uncategorized|5 Comments

I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t raised in a faith tradition that observed Advent. I heard about Advent, yet never learned what a Christian is to do during Advent or what this season actually represents for followers of Christ.

But a few years ago, I was introduced to the rich history of the Church calendar. A friend shared with me that the focal point of Advent was waiting. I had been in a long season of waiting that year and Advent sounded interesting and mysterious. I decided to jump in and see what taking part in Advent would mean for me. 

Many of you may already be familiar with Advent, but for those of us who aren’t, Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in the Church as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. It’s a time set aside where we remember both God’s faithfulness in sending us His son, while at the same time leaning into the hopeful expectation of our reality as followers of Christ: we still await the return of our Messiah; the world is yearning for Him.

The season of Advent lasts for 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. It begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. Advent 2020 begins on Sunday, November 29th, and ends on Thursday, December 24.

For more information regarding the history of Advent, I found this article super helpful: https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html

So…why observe Advent this year?

I won’t go into all of the reasons why this year has been hard; it just has been. Personally, the hard parts of this year have exposed the frayed and underdeveloped parts of my character. I notice this in my response to last minute changes, small annoyances, and, what feels like, unending tension in the world.

Corporately, we’re all exhausted. It feels as though we have spent the entire year waiting. Waiting for local restrictions to be lifted, waiting for permission to re-gather as a Church, waiting for good news to come regarding Covid numbers, waiting for resolution after a tumultuous election cycle, waiting for a sense of normal to return to our lives…waiting.

Advent invites us to lean into the waiting. It beckons us to remember that the Israelites waited, too. They held onto the words of prophets like Isaiah who assured them that the Messiah would indeed come. We stand in a very similar place today; we are waiting for Jesus to return and make all things new. 

This is what we do in Advent – we remember, but we also wait with hope-filled expectation. 

There is so much that God does in the waiting.

How am I observing Advent with my students in 2020?  

I’ve decided that rather than only practicing Advent with my own family this year, I’d also introduce my small group of high school girls to it. There is deep value in learning what it means to wait on and with Jesus, and I can’t think of a better year to guide them through what that looks like.

If it’s helpful to share specifics with you, my plan is to download and print The Stories of Advent resource from the Download Youth Ministry store. This social media-ready devotional is making it super easy for me to have a ready-made resource to hand to my small group. I’ll give them the printed read-along devotional and walk them through the meaning and significance of Advent at small group the week before Advent kicks off (our group meets on Wednesday nights, so we’ll do this the day before Thanksgiving). From there, my plan is to assign each girl in my group a day of the week where they will film themselves (selfie-style) reading the devotional for that day. They will be responsible to text our group the video of the devotional on their assigned day (with a few reminders from me, I’m sure). 

My hope is that this will keep the girls engaged all month and if they miss reading the devotional on their own, they have a friend reading it to them in the video (which they can easily play while getting ready or doing their chores). Every week at small group my plan is to start our time together by having them share any insights, questions, or thoughts from the devotional. It’s okay if they skip a day or “get behind”, the goal is to simply help them open to God and see what He has for them in a season of waiting. I’ll also use the social media graphics included in the resource to post on my Instagram account (which all of my small group girls follow) to serve as an encouragement for them throughout the month. If a devotional is out of sight, it’s out of mind, so my goal is to sprinkle reminders of Advent for them via text, on social media, and at small group.

In light of the year we’ve faced, I’m choosing to enter into this holiday season with hope-filled expectation. I encourage you to take part in Advent this year and receive the gifts that God has for you, and your students, in the waiting.

Check out Stories of Advent on DYM!


Searching for Youth Group Games? Discover thousands of turn-key resources at Download Youth Ministry.

17 Sep 2020

Our Life Group Leader Survival Kit

By |2020-09-17T10:21:23-07:00September 17th, 2020|Small Groups|2 Comments

Life Group Leaders,

You are taking a brave and courageous step–some of you for the very first time–to care for our students! We know that God will do amazing things in and through you. You will experience the full range of emotions, there will be times of:

  • Belly-rolling laughter
  • Joy as you see them “get it”
  • Frustration as students push your buttons
  • Empathetic tears as you feel their hurts

We’ve created this Life Group Leader SURVIVAL KIT to help you succeed. We’ll do anything to support you! Here’s what’s included:

  • A PACK OF GUM
    Nothing ruins a good small group like bad breath, don’t quench God’s Spirit with your halitosis.
  • A PACK OF TISSUES
    For those nights where your heart is broken because of the pain.
  • SLEEVE OF OREOS
    For when someone forgets snacks, or when you need a sleeve of Oreos for yourself. There used to be more than one, but we got hungry. Apologies.
  • $5 STARBUCKS CARD
    Treat yo ‘self – you deserve it!
  • A FEW “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” CARDS
    We love celebrations, and words-of-affirmation are a great way to do that.
  • PENS, SHARPIES, HIGHLIGHTERS & INDEX CARDS
    Stuff you probably just need and are good to have on hand as you lead.
  • UNO
    Who doesn’t love Uno? Also if you got nothing else up your sleeve to occupy a little extra time, here you go!

Hope this is helpful to adapt or use in your setting. If you make it better or add things, be sure to leave them in the comments to share too!

JG

14 Sep 2020

100 Prompts/Discussion Starters for Youth Ministry Small Groups

By |2020-09-14T15:35:19-07:00September 14th, 2020|Small Groups|0 Comments

Did a fun youth ministry exercise today – a brain dump on fun questions and prompts/discussion starters for your small group leaders. I’m using them this week to help my leaders make connections and spark some discussions, thought I would share them for you to borrow/steal as well. Enjoy them for your church/personal use, too:

  1. Introduce yourself: name, school, where you are from 
  2. Share an embarrassing moment
  3. How you met your spouse (if applicable)
  4. Favorite place to go, event to attend
  5. Biggest celebrity you met/saw once
  6. How is online-school going?
  7. What do you miss most since COVID?
  8. Favorite Power Ranger
  9. TRUTH OR DARE: you actually watched the new Dora the Explorer live-action movie
  10. HOT TAKE: The Sonic the Hedgehog movie was actually pretty good!
  11. What sport do you play?
  12. Would you ever be in the school musical?
  13. Birth order – are you oldest, youngest, middle, etc
  14. Describe your parents in one word
  15. What’s one thing you would NEVER change about yourself?
  16. Show me a picture from your Camera Roll you thought about but never posted. Why/why not?
  17. Have you ever graffitied something? If so, what was it? If not, why not?
  18. Describe your sibling(s) in one word
  19. Describe yourself in one word
  20. What’s one thing you would change about yourself?
  21. What’s your GPA and how does that make a) you feel or b) your parents feel?
  22. Who is your favorite sports team?
  23. Who is your celebrity crush?
  24. What is your favorite Bible character?
  25. What is one of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace etc) that you wish you had more of?
  26. Worst nightmare. Describe in vivid detail
  27. Who is the best ninja turtle (there is only one right answer)?
  28. What is the best pizza topping?
  29. Do pineapples belong on pizza?
  30. What’s your “go to” Starbucks order?
  31. Is “cancel culture” a good thing?
  32. Scale of 1-10 how good are your friends?
  33. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
  34. Google Docs or Microsoft Word?
  35. When was the last time you went camping?
  36. Camping or glamping?
  37. If you could fly anywhere, where would you go?
  38. If you had the antidote to COVID-19 what would you charge?
  39. Marvel or DC?
  40. Which Star Wars movie is the best?
  41. When was the last time you read the Bible?
  42. Is your house the house where everyone hangs or do you go so someone else’s house?
  43. What’s your gamertag?
  44. Fortnite vs Minecraft. Choose one
  45. Favorite TV show
  46. Favorite snack
  47. In-N-Out or Chick-fil-a?
  48. Olive Garden is the last restaurant on planet earth. How often do you eat there?
  49. What age did you get a cell phone?
  50. Android or Apple?
  51. What is your first impression of me as your Life Group Leader?
  52. What is the best cookie on planet earth?
  53. Diet Coke or Coke Zero? If you say Diet Pepsi you’re kicked from the group
  54. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  55. What major do you want to take in college?
  56. What college do you want to attend?
  57. How much much pressure do you feel from your parents in school/life/work/play?
  58. Do you work? Where was your first job? 
  59. FACT: The Mandalorian is the best thing on Disney+
  60. HOT TAKE: Mulan was terrible. So bad I think it was terrible without even seeing it. Discuss.
  61. Are your friends struggling with COVID-19 stuff?
  62. How is your mental health? Anxiety?
  63. How does Instagram make you feel when you’re left out of something?
  64. Do things bother you a lot or do you let stuff roll off your back?
  65. Extroverted or Introverted
  66. HOT TAKE: Crossfitters just weird old former athletes.
  67. When you get old, I want to retire in …
  68. What is your favorite Bible verse?
  69. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
  70. When does God speak to you?
  71. When do you feel God’s presence?
  72. Are you a Christian? How do you know?
  73. When was the last time you prayed?
  74. Is your heart heavy/burdened about something right now?
  75. Are you dating someone?
  76. Do your parents pay for your gas? Cell phone? Insurance?
  77. When was the last time you said, “thank you” to someone?
  78. What was the last card/letter you hand wrote?
  79. When was the last time you lied?
  80. Your parents describe you in one word: _____________
  81. Your friends describe you in one word: ________________
  82. Last movie you watched in theaters.
  83. Batman Begins is the best Batman movie. Not a question. Nothing to discuss. Just a point I wanted to make.
  84. People put their life on the line all of the time. What would you die for?
  85. Who was the last person you said “I love you” to recently?
  86. What is your favorite memory in your life so far?
  87. What is one memory that immediately makes you sad?
  88. What is your favorite car?
  89. If you could be a professional at one extreme sport what would it be?
  90. If you could be called any other name than your own what would it be?
  91. What would you do if I gave you $10 right now?
  92. You were the star of a movie, what would it be?
  93. What do you think is the most epic movie/tv show fight scene you’ve ever seen?
  94. Who’s your BFFFF and why? 
  95.  Tell us the best Dad Joke you’ve got?
  96. You’re a one-hit-wonder. What would the name of your song be? 
  97. What’s the last meal you’d want to eat before you die? 
  98. Would you rather walk backwards everywhere you go or yodel every time you spoke?
  99. What is the most important quality you look for in friendships?
  100. Have you had the Travis Scott meal at McDonalds?

So fun! Hope they’re helpful.

JG

27 Mar 2020

Small Group Your Small Group Leaders

By |2020-03-22T18:40:52-07:00March 27th, 2020|Small Groups|0 Comments

Last week I was talking with two individuals who were having a rough time coming out of their dating relationship. The guy was really just not leaving the girl alone even though she made it clear they had cut it off and there was no chance of getting back together.

In the middle of having conversations with them individually, I got a text from another individual whose mom just found out she had aggressive cancer. 

Even though conversations like that happen with students frequently, both of those situations were with my small group leaders.

If you’ve got any volunteers who are helping you minister to your students, let me challenge you to treat them like your own personal small group.

Take time to pastor those who are pastoring your students!

You have leaders who are pouring into your students weekend and week out. Who is pouring into them?

Ever since I began to think of myself as a small group leader to my small group leaders, I’ve been more intentional about how I treat them.

Here are some quick thoughts.

Keep a prayer journal of their requests.

Follow up with them when I ask you to pray for something. Ask them how their sick parent is doing.  let them know you prayed for them when they were taking their final exam. Tell them you are hoping they can find reconciliation between them and a rough coworker situation.

Give them some encouragement!

Do you know your small group leader’s favorite snacks? Buy them for them every so often. Take a picture of them in their small group, Fremont, and hand it to them. Write them a handwritten note and stick a five-dollar Starbucks gift card in there.

Challenge them to grow in their faith.

Ask your small group leaders what they are doing to grow personally. If it’s studying the lesson and use it in their own lives, great! If it’s sharing Jesus intentionally with your coworkers or the local barista, follow up with them and ask them how it’s going. See what steps They are taking in order to grow personally.

When you start treating your small group leaders like your own small group, I believe your entire youth ministry will grow and thrive

What else would you add to this list?

17 Mar 2020

How to Use Zoom and Sidekick for Youth Group Online

By |2020-03-17T15:11:02-07:00March 17th, 2020|Leadership, Small Groups, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Technology|10 Comments

Anthony Taylor put together two AWESOME videos on how to use Sidekick and Zoom for your online youth ministry!

So thankful for the DYM community as we continue to innovate and come up with exciting ways to reach students!

I LOVE having fun!! Especially with my wife Beth and our kids Sophia and Max.

I am a 7 with a 7 wing 🙂

Favorite things: building things, Children’s Museum, Paddleboarding, Surfing, Fishing, Playing with my kids, Leading.

Least Favorite things: Libraries, paperwork, and socially awkward situations and bad decision.

Check out Anthony’s DYM resources!

18 Dec 2019

Do Your Leaders Know How To “WIN” In Your Ministry?

By |2019-12-15T22:41:16-08:00December 18th, 2019|Leadership, Small Groups, Youth Ministry Hacks|0 Comments

It’s a great question to ask in your ministry and about your leaders. If I was to come to visit your youth ministry one week and I was to walk around with your leaders and ask them:

What does it mean for you to be winning as a leader in your ministry?

What would they say? Would all the answers be the same? Would they all be different? Would they even know how to answer? Does it scare you to think about it?

No matter what kind of leader you are and what kind of leaders you have, everyone wants to know if they are winning or not. Everyone wants to know be able to track themselves to see how they are doing. Even if they don’t tell you that and they seem like they don’t care, leaders want to know how to win.

When leaders know what the wins are they are more likely to hit it.

The picture above is the wins for our leaders.

  1. A conversation about Jesus – All leaders are small group leaders. Did they have a conversation about Jesus? If they did. It’s a win.
  2. Follow up – When a new student came and was placed into their small group, did they follow up before the next service? Did they follow up with a conversation they had in the group with a student? That’s a win.
  3. Wednesday + – Did you interact in some way outside of Wednesday night throughout the week? That’s a win.

We don’t need a ton of wins, but some that are important for you and your ministry to move forward. Some things to keep in mind when setting wins for your leaders:

  • Simple, clear, concise goals. They need to be memorable. 
  • 1-4 most important goals. 
  • Communicate with them every single week in some way, shape or form. 
  • Follow up in one-on-ones if leaders are not meeting them. It’s a great way of accountability. 
  • This is how you upkeep your leader culture. You are the keeper of your culture.

So what are your wins? Do your leaders know them? If so, awesome! If not, I think it’s something you should gather your leaders in this season and have a good set of “wins” for your leaders to have in the new year.

@justinknowles3

 

19 Aug 2018

Help Me With… Small Groups

By |2018-08-20T11:37:45-07:00August 19th, 2018|Help Me With..., Small Groups, Training, Volunteers|0 Comments

There is no end to the list of the way God can use a small group leader in the life of a student. If you grew up in youth ministry and were to name a leader who impacted your life and your relationship with Jesus, chances are, that relationship was fostered in the context of a small group.

We’re given such a unique opportunity to walk alongside teenagers as they begin their faith journey, and we hope to steward that time and authority well.

Our DYM Team searched through thousands of resources, blog posts, and podcast episodes to bring you only the best to help you train and equip your small group leaders to succeed in this new school year.

Leader Training

Leader Tools

Kick-Off Curriculum 

Blog posts to help you with all things small groups…

We combed through our blog to find the posts that we thought would be most helpful.

Podcasts to help you with all things small groups…

We combed through the podcasts in our network to find the episodes that would be most helpful.

From Youth Ministry Hacks:

From The DYM Podcast:

Videos to Help Train Your Leaders…

The DYM Leader Training Library is full of 10-15 minute videos designed to help you train and equip your volunteers as they care for the students entrusted to them. Here are a few we think might help as you prepare your leaders for another year of small groups:

Students spend their days trying to fit into their group, class, culture or school… and in doing so they try to push down or stifle the uniqueness God has put in them. Imagine if we, as shepherds, we’re able to know and call out that uniqueness in each teenager. Heather Flies gives 4 easy-to-remember steps to help each of us identify and call out a student’s individual gifting so we might better help each student discover and embrace who God created them to be.

Doug Fields teaches leaders to consider 3 very important questions as they disciple, lead small groups and mentor teenagers. Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Do you know what you’re talking about? The answers to these questions are essential for all caring adults.

We all want to grow ministries and students that are rooted in God’s Word. In this short, 10-minute training video, author and professor Crystal Kirgiss, offers three levels at which students can engage with the Bible and easy steps leaders can take to help them dive deeper.

Click HERE to see more from the Help Me With series!

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