Small group leaders are essential to effective student ministry. As the ministry grows, the youth pastor begins to rely more and more heavily on small group leaders. Students naturally want to open up, but it takes time and relationship building from their small group leader. For the students to experience the most growth, they must know several things about their relationship with you as the small group leader.
- Students must know that they can trust you…You will not get a student to open up about themselves if they do not feel that they can trust you. This is something that you as the leader must prove to them. So, prove it. Do not talk about your students’ struggles to other leaders. Be cautious about this, because if the student finds out, they clam up. Be respectful to their personal struggles. Now, if the student tells you something that merits you telling their parents or a youth pastor, by all means do it. For example, if drugs or suicide is mentioned, you need to tell someone. If they are struggling with cussing, a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship, or something else, keep it between you guys, because they are telling you their struggles in confidence.
- Students must know that they are loved by you…Your small group must have love. They must be cared about. This can be demonstrated in a number of ways. The best way is TIME. Spend time with them. I know your time as a leader is valuable, but make some time for them through the year. Take the time to call, visit, spend an evening hanging with them, or text them. It shows the students that you love them.
- Students must know that you enjoy being there…Do not make it a habit to come late. Do not rush through your time with them. Do not be the first small group done every week. The reasons are is that all of these things scream “I DO NOT ENJOY BEING HERE.” When you enjoy something, you do not rush through it. You enjoy it, and will take however long it may take. Have fun with your kids, and show them that you love coming each week.
- Students must know that they are not judged…In small group ministry, there is no telling what might be said. You might hear things such as “I am cutting myself,” “I am looking at porn,” I had sex with my boyfriend or girlfriend,” “I am struggling with homosexuality,” I hate my parents,” or “I do not believe in God.” Those are all heavy and weighty comments, but you may hear phrases like this. Be careful not to cast judgment on your students. Listen to them, offer advice, and remember that they struggle with things just like you as the leader have your certain struggles.
- Students must know that they are noticed…When you have a small group of 5-7 students, it is sometimes easy to connect well with one or two individuals, and then have a couple that you rarely connect with. Every student attending your small group should be equally important. Spend time with each of them and contact each of them. They must feel noticed, and that you appreciate them being there regardless of their social status. Just a side note, it is easy to connect with students who are into things that you as the leader are into. For example, I love sports so I can connect with students into sports easier than a student that plays video games. I still though as a leader must try to connect with the gamer as much as the athlete. It is my duty and responsibility.