This question came to me recently by email from a youth worker whose team is considering rethinking small groups. He wondered, “What ideas do you have from other churches’ experiences?”
I figured this question might be better if we crowdsource the answer. So here’s my initial response, and I’d love to hear your ideas!
A lot of folks have reconfigured, experimented with, and turned small groups upside down in the process of exploring Sticky Faith in their context. Here are a few possibilities we have heard:
- rethinking youth ministry small groups to really cultivate safe places for sharing and exploring doubts and struggles. We've learned that the ability to safely share doubts is incredibly important for young people, and small groups can be an incredible venue for this.
- experimenting with intergenerational small groups, whether that is short-term or long-term, large-scale or small-scale. Some have done this by grouping senior adults with high school students, others by taking high school seniors and putting them in adult small groups in pairs. The possibilities are endless, but not everything works in every context.
- looking at youth ministry small groups as places to nurture kids' understanding of the gospel beyond the "Jesus Jacket" they can take off and on based on where they are and what they're experiencing. Small groups can be where young people work out faith-life integration and put wheels on it, and where they learn about true grace and receive it from each other.
- seeing the leader-student relationship as a key goal of the small group, where the small group leaders become a key part of the 5:1 web in each kids' life, and where that relationship is seen more long-term. Some youth ministries are restructuring such that leaders stick with students for the first year after high school, whether they're in the neighborhood or 2,000 miles away. Others are bringing junior high leaders up to high school with students, or across the transition from elementary to middle school, such that relationships don't end when a student crosses a transition threshold (which is all too common).
- utilizing small groups as a way to help older students serve younger students, eg juniors/seniors co-leading middle school small groups alongside an adult. Research shows that serving younger kids is a "sticky factor" for older students' faith. Our experience is that this tends to work best in the kind of scenario I share above, where a student is paired with an adult rather than completely on their own.
Now it’s your turn. How are you rethinking small group ministry based on Sticky Faith?