- Be there for the right reasons- Students know if you are there for any other reason than to love them. If you are there watching your own kids, or you feel guilty for not being involved in a ministry of the local church, or if you are doing it out of routine. Students can pick up on it from a mile away so be there for the right reasons.
- Genuinely Love your Students- Once again, students will know if you are forcing or faking your love for them. They will know so make sure it is genuine.
- Contact your kids weekly outside of your small group time- Students might act like they are annoyed by this, or they might act like they do not care if you contact them or not, but THEY DO. They remember these things. The best small groups are the ones that have relationships with their leaders outside of youth group.
- Attend large group events as much as possible- I understand that we have families, and it is difficult to find a baby sitter, etc, but try to attend events with your students. Once again, the best small groups are usually because the students have a strong relationship with their leader. One of the best ways to build this relationship is through youth group events.
- Have a balance of discipleship and relationship- Relationships are the bridge to discipleship. You will never disciple a student if you do not have a relationship with them, but too many leaders have relationships, but are not discipling their students. Make sure that you are having a balance.
- Get to know their parents- Parent ministry is not just something for the youth pastor. It is equally the responsibility of the small group leaders to minister to the parents as well. If you have a small group, one of the first things that you must do is meet their parents. If you have had a small group, and you have not met your parents, make that your next top priority!
One thing that I am seeking at improving this year is volunteer involvement. I feel like we push student led youth groups so much that volunteers get left in the middle, and feeling a bit disconnected in some ways. Here are 5 things that every volunteer needs from his student pastor that I have learned over the years:
- Prayer- This is a no brainer, but seriously, Youth Pastor, do you pray regularly for your volunteers? If I am going to be totally honest with you, I would have to say, I have struggled with this, but this year, I have committed to becoming a better prayer warrior for our small group volunteers. I am not talking about saying a quick prayer like, “God, pray for our volunteers.” I am saying pray for each of them by name.
- Encouragement- Being a youth leader is tough stuff. It is not something that you just start, and become an expert at it. It can be somewhat draining, and very discouraging. I had a small group leader frustrated recently about her kids not showing up. This is where the youth pastor comes in. Encourage your leaders. Send an encouraging note, a text, or an email to let them know that you are standing with them.
- Information- Inform them. Try and not allow for things to happen without them knowing. Give them a heads up about what is going on at your student service, or the details about events, before the students get the information. Small group volunteers need to be in the know as much as the youth pastor.
- Accountability- Everyone needs accountability, and small group leaders need this from the youth pastor. Hold them accountable about the expectations that you give them before the year begins.
- Belief- Every small group volunteer needs to feel appreciated, but each small group leader needs to know that you as the youth pastor believe in what they are doing! Not just in the work, but in them as a person as well. Dream with them, and when they give you an idea, make it happen somehow!
“Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:
1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.
2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time-consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.
3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.
4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.
5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.
Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?”
Recently, we had a leadership seminar with my adult leaders. It was a huge success, and we look forward to doing another one in the future. I want to give you a few thoughts on how to plan an effective leadership seminar for your adult leaders.
Schedule a date early- Many adult leaders have families, and it is important and respectful to plan your seminar early so that they can plan on being in attendance. I would recommend at least 6-8 months out of planning.
Decide what topics you would like to train your leaders on- It is important that you have direction in what the purpose of the seminar is going to be. If it is just to inform them of your ministry, I would recommend calling it something different. When your leaders hear the word, seminar, they will think that it is a meeting on what they can do better to become more effective. So, decide the topic(s) that you would like to address, and promote them to the leaders so that they can prep in their mind for the seminar.
Have a gift for the leaders- We did “small group survival kits” for our seminar. We had a pen, pad, nice cup for a drink, “about me” forms for their students, gum, snacks, etc. It is just a little gift to show them that we appreciate them, and it also taught them a bit about their small group in the middle of it as well.
Have food- Food is essential to make these events a success. Your adult leaders love to eat or else they would not be in youth ministry. Have food for them, and cover the cost of the food if possible to show them your appreciation. Also, just a note, do not have pizza, because they are so accustomed to having that with their students.
Always have a Q & A time- This is usually one of our best times. We allow anyone with questions to ask, and we will have some effective discussion.
End with a group event- We did bowling, and it actually went over real well. This is solely for relationship building! It works great to just kick back, relax, and have fun with one another. You can do bowling, putt putt, or any other activity.
I hope that this helps you. We had all but like two leaders at our seminar, and it was a hit! If you would like to know more about leadership seminars, email me at email@example.com or leave a comment on this post.
Small group discussion is so important, and really is the place where the Word can be applied as much as any other time. Generating discussion is tough for leaders, but is extremely important to having an effective small group discussion. I want to give you some ideas to help facilitate positive discussion in your small group:
- Be patient- On your first night, the small group discussion is not going to be extremely deep if it is your first time with this small group. It takes time, and be patient on it. Do not be discouraged if you leave feeling like the discussion was not centered around the Gospel on your first night. It takes time so be patient.
- Set goals throughout the year- Set a goal for a month from now to be deeper in your discussion with your students than you are right now. Set a goal to have a student who maybe has not opened up to get them to open up a bit by the next month.
- Build strong relationships- If you want discussion to take place, a relationship has to be in place as well. If you do not have a regular consistent relationship, do not expect for them to open up to you. I always picture a truck filled with Biblical truth trying to reach the heart of a student, and the truck must go over a bridge to get to the heart of that student. That bridge is the bridge of relationships. If a relationship is not built, the truck will never make it to the heart. Just think how much more effective we could be in sharing the Word if we had better relationships with our students.
- Ask good questions- We do our small group session after my lesson so I challenge my leaders to be thinking of questions to ask during the lesson, or even before youth group that week. Ask good pointed questions for the students to answer. Not yes or no answered questions. Go deeper than those type of questions. Be intentional about your questions.
- Listen to their answers- Listen to each kid as they give answers! Take the time to listen, and facilitate discussion based on the answers. Each student will open up more and more if they know that you value what they are saying.
Have you ever desired for practical training for your youth leaders to take place, but do not have the budget to take them to some mega conference? I know I have. Training is something that is lacking in our youth leaders. We create these teams of really cool leaders who care for students, but many still struggle with creating effective small groups that can see life change. Word of Life has provided a resource that can help you train your leaders inexpensively. Check this out!
I want to share with you a free resource that you are going to love! It is called Transfer Live. Transfer Live is a series of videos that help you more effectively reach students and kids with the Gospel! Transfer Live is a ministry and resource provided by Word of Life!
Here are a few examples of some of the videos that you can find on Transfer Live (Remember, there are many more):
- Using your summer to set up for a killer fall
- Relationships: The foundation of Ministry
- 100 Ways to be More Creative
- Small Group Lesson Application
- Ministry Visits
- Middle School Ministry
- Ministering to Parents
I encourage you to go to Transfer Live, and use this resource in training your small group leaders to be more effective in reaching students with the Gospel, and more intentional in their personal discipleship of their small group students.
One thing that every student ministry wants to do is train leaders! I am learning that as I grow older in my ministry that I am ministering to parents and leaders as much or more than students! It is about partnering with parents, and training your leaders to minister effectively! This area of effectiveness often comes through discipleship. I encourage in every student ministry to have small groups. The small group discipleship process is a tough one, and something that requires leadership training. Below you will find 2 discipleship videos that are produced through Word of Life. Rick Garland is a great communicator, and he gives some practical principles on training your small group leaders.
This can be used in your leadership training:
[Question:] What resources are you using to train your adult leaders?
Recently, Josh Robinson who is the student pastor at, “The church at the Springs” shared a great student ministry volunteer handbook training manual that they use in their student ministry. It is an awesome handbook training manual. It is one of the best, and I am going to derive ideas and create one similar for our volunteers. I wanted to share it with you, and allow you to see it since it is something that you can use in your student ministry.
The Source volunteer handbook consists of:
- Who We Are
- Partnering with Parents
- Vision & Strategy
- Ways to Serve
SMALL GROUP LEADERS
-What is a small group leader?
- The 7 Essentials of a small group leader
- Creative Ways to Connect with Families
A FEW MORE THINGS
- Sharing the Gospel
- Stay in Bounds
- Code of Conduct
- One Year Commitment
Recently in our student ministry, we have had some big meetings with our students’ parents and the small group leaders. In these meetings, we decided to do some humorous videos to kick things off. I hope that these are entertaining, but also possibly something that you guys can use for fun with your leaders sometime. The titles of the videos are:
The 5 Keys to Effective Parenting
The Small Group Leader’s 5 mottos
For years, I have surveyed student ministries, and have seen a similar system set up. Parents drop off their students to youth group for the service or for an activity. Then, wait in the vehicle (hoping to not be seen) to pick up their student from the service or activity. Very rarely have I seen systems of student ministries that have a student/parent together ministry. Now, I have seen the system go the opposite direction after the “Divided” movie.Many ministries have moved to a complete integration of their services with parents, teens, and children all together. I personally do not hold to this style of church. I think that student ministry is a great asset to families in the community. So, what system should we have?
Here is what I would like to see in our student ministry involving parents:
- Parents to feel welcome and a part of our Wednesday youth group program- One thing that I want to do this year is create a parents night where all parents come and worship with us! Now, the students are not going to be a big fan of this right away, but hopefully over time, we can change that. I would love for parents to come on Wednesday nights and feel welcome. I would love to see parents show up and serve on Wednesday’s or just come and see what is going on.
- Parents to attend more events/activities- Our student ministry is growing, and we can have up to 50-60 on any given event at times, and it is tough to get committed leaders to attend those and help. I would love to see more involvement during events for parents! I would like to change the mold where students and parents want to get away from each other, and instead bring them together through the church!
- Parents to have a strong and healthy relationship with their students/ small group leader- This is a big one for me, and it requires an effort from both the leaders and the parents, but I believe that it can be done. It has been done with some of our leaders, but others hardly know the parents of their students. By the end of the year, I would love to see a consistent communication going with the parents and the small group leaders.
- Parents to have an honest and open relationship with my wife and I- Now, I do not want to take the place of the small group leader, but I also want a relationship with the parents of our students. I do not want to seem distant from them in any way. I want to be approachable and welcoming of them and their ideas or concerns.
- Parents to consistently pray for myself, small group leaders, and the students of the Grove- We covet the prayers of our parents, and honestly if the parents are failing to pray for the leaders and students, shame on them! That is harsh, but it is the truth! We need prayer, and the easiest (but most difficult sometimes) thing to do for parents is pray for the students.