Category Archives: Small Groups

5 Steps to Improving Your Small Group

Here are just 5 ways to improve your small group.  Simple, but effective ways to allow your small group to flourish…STRUCTURE

At a Home. It is just something about having small group in a home. It allows people to relax, open up, and get deeper in conversation. When my wife was on maternity leave, I hosted small group at the church. The teens were devastated. They loved coming to our home. In fact, there were some students that rarely came to small group before we hosted in our home. Now, they are not only regular attendees, but regular contributors in conversation and interaction. (Disclaimer: Nothing wrong with hosting small group at a church due to size of group or other issues)+

Small-er Groups for Prayer. First, don’t forget prayer. That’s a non-negotiable, and should not just be a “tack-on” at the end of small group. Second, it may work better if prayer was done in smaller groups. This allows for more detailed prayer requests, prohibits just one person from dominating the requests (you know this happens), and provided a more intimate prayer session. (Idea: If you are worried about not hearing all the requests, appoint a group leader to write down requests and hand to the small group leader for the main prayer list).

Shortened Lesson. Don’t cheapen or water-down the lesson, simply shorten the lesson. It is important to allow for discussion and prayer time within the small group. The leader needs to try to be consistent with this, especially if there are prayer and discussion leaders that have prepared as well. You do not want to discount their preparation.

Variety. Small groups typically is an eclectic group of people. So this requires two things: a variety of topics and a variety of teaching methods. For topics, there may be a need for parenting discussion, spiritual disciplines, Book of the Bible study…the list is endless, but continue to be diverse and creative. Also, especially if teaching is not your forte, be willing to use DVD studies, curriculum, or other outside sources to complement the small group teaching.

Food. Last, but certainly not least, food. Food is always a great way for life on life discussions to happen. In our group, we do a snack last, which allows for casual conversation and also intentional life change conversations to happen as well. Food has a way of bringing people together, which should be a goal of your small group.

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Youth Curriculum Review Series (Cont.) – 2013-14 Edition

This post will be the final installment of the curriculum review series for 2013-2014.  My hope is these reviews will not discourage you from using curriculum, but help you find the right fit for your youth or student ministry.  Feel free to comment and ask questions to help you make that important teaching decision.

Curriculum Review: The Ten – Liquid DVD Seriesindex

The Good:

Creative. This brought a creative approach to the Ten Commandments, which the students appreciated. Often, when a student hears idols or thou shalt not murder, they don’t believe these commandments have anything to do with them. This series presents these in such a creative way, the student eyes are opened that their lives are impacted by each commandment, every day.

Visual. These videos bring the Ten Commandments to life. It is not just on a stone tablet anymore for the students. But these videos give real life examples of the commandments.

Discussion. Something I always appreciate about curriculum is discussion questions. This curriculum does not disappoint with discussion questions that engage, and encourage interaction with the material.

 

The Bad:

Act Right. Honestly, got a little weird in some parts. The acting at times struggled, and as a result it brought about some awkward moments for the audience. There may have been some laughter in the audience when things weren’t funny, and some shaking of heads in the attempt of comedy.

Stretch Exercises. Some of the application or visual representation of the commandments were a bit of a stretch. And some were difficult to teach as a result of that stretching. Also, the first two discussions were quite similar, which made things a little confusing.

Smell. The box smelled. Not kidding. No explanation for the smell. But it smelled.

 

The Grade: B-

Not my all-time favorite DVD series. It had its moments in presenting a creative way to study the Ten Commandments. But there were also times of awkwardness and a need for a teacher willing to work a little harder to make the material work. I wouldn’t go as far as saying this series stinks (although the box really did stink), because it was a fun series for our students. However, it required good discussion afterwards and a willingness to think a little outside the box to make it work.

 

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Youth Curriculum Review Series (Cont.) – 2013-14 Edition

Curriculum Review: Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara Powell & Brad Griffin (Zondervan Press)SONY DSC

The Good:

Creativity. The creativity has to be the first thing that stands out to me. You can tell right off the bat that the writers have experience in youth ministry. This is not purely a lecture series, but an interactive teaching approach that is easy for the teacher to use. The illustrations were dynamite, and I was rarely disappointed in the variety.

Purpose. The premise falls in line with my youth ministry philosophy. As it says in Colossians 1:23, the goal in youth ministry should be: lead teenagers to a faith that lasts, that continues, and in this case, that sticks. With so many students leaving church following graduation, there must be something that we could present to our departing seniors that will help change the trend. This curriculum aims to buck the trend, and point the students towards a faith that isn’t tied to youth group.

Easy to Use. No matter the experience level of the teacher, this curriculum was pretty easy to use. Sure, there was study involved, but even if a parent wanted to use this with their upper-classmen, it could happen.

The Bad:

The video clips. I wasn’t too impressed with the content of the clips, and was even concerned at some of the wording for young Christians. Be careful, and do not feel pressured to use the clips. At times they add to the teaching, and other times they are simply not needed.

Activities. Some of the activities or worship practices were out of my comfort zone. It’s good to have creativity, but again, don’t feel pressured in doing something that may cause more confusion than growth. This was rare in the series, but it did appear.

The Grade: B

The variety and ease of use allowed this to be a positive grade. There were some flaws, and the spiritual depth needed an extra boost every now and then, but for the most part, I enjoyed the series. In fact, I was able to use this material for a transition class where I combined junior high, high school, & young adults. Very few curricula could ever be that versatile.

The curriculum did its job in providing valuable lessons for the senior to transition into adult life. It’s an important enough venture to look into this curriculum for a number of reasons: very few curricula out there like this, the epidemic of seniors leaving church after graduation, and the importance of the topics covered. Just those few reasons alone should encourage you to take a look.

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Improving Small Groups

I’ve spent some time thinking of how to improve the small group experience for students and for leaders/sponsors.  Here are some small improvements that have made a big difference:

  1. Lay Down the Red Carpet – Before royalty, or Hollywood royalty, comes into the building, there is red carpet laid down.  Do the same for your students.  Welcome them.  Make them feel welcome.  Have a plan, with a welcome table.  Train your leaders how to treat an incoming visitor.  Use role-play to illustrate how it works and what to do and what not to do.
  2. You Might Want To Invite God – You ever have a party or get-together and realize you forgot to invite someone.  It is an awful feeling.  Well, you should have that feeling if you forget to pray before small group.  You need to invite God, pray for his help, pray for the Spirit to change hearts, pray for your students.  Invite God to your small group!
  3. What, Do You Need Me To Paint You a Picture! – The answer is yes.  Use well-thought out illustrations that drive the point home in a memorable way.  Allow the lesson and Scripture to come alive.  Have quality ice-breakers that could plug into the lesson.  Spend time making the lesson memorable and life-changing!
  4. Who Is That In the Reflection of the Mirror? – As you get older you begin to not recognize who is in the mirror.  Well, the same thing happens in your relationship with your students if you don’t reflect on what happens in each group.  I call them “Reflection Sheets”.  These short worksheets are given to each leader of the small group.  It includes attendance, weekly devotional accountability count, questions about what went good in discussion, place for upcoming special events of members of the small group, and of course a place for prayer requests.
  5. Don’t Forget to Look in the Mirror – Okay, your leaders just spent the time to fill these “Reflection Sheets” out for you…don’t just throw them away…USE THEM!  Record your attendance and reflect on it, reflect on what questions went well/badly, try to plan to attend or send a leader to attend the special events, and PRAY for ALL the requests listed on the forms.

What about you?  What changes have you made in your small groups that have made your small group more successful?  I would love to hear your ideas as we help each other bring students closer to the Savior.

 

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