Saturday, October 6, 2012

Small youth groups

I had the privilege of teaching a workshop during Warmth in Winter (our local conference winter retreat for youth) a couple of years ago. It was geared toward adult leaders and was a "new" experience for me! The title was "Single Digit YouthMinistries". My first statement was "If you came to this workshop to have me tell youhow to take a small youth group and build it into a large one, you're in the wrong place!" I'm glad to say that no one walked out! If you think about it, in large churches, the first thing they do in Youth ministry is to divide the young people into "small" groups based on age, grade or other criteria. Our small group is ready made.

Although the congregation of most every church would love to have a Youth group with 50 or 100 young people, my passion is for smaller gatherings. Having a group our size allows me (and the other adults) to be in relationship with all the young one gets lost in the shuffle. We can know about what happens in their lives, what is important to them, what scares or hurts them...and we're in a place to help them address it.

There have been times in the past that I would fret about not reaching a larger group and questioned if I was the right person for the job. But then I realized, this is NOT a job to me, it's a mission, it's my way of reaching out and I am blessed to be in relationship with these people. It's our desire to reach the ones we have rather than be concerned about the ones we don't. Besides, when Jesus called His disciples, He only called 12!

Do you think numerical growth is the only indicator of a healthy Youth ministry? Numbers can be an indicator but it's not a decisive one. "Fun" youth group meetings can attract larger numbers but ministry is not all about games. It must include spiritual growth and spiritual growth is solely a work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life. If a healthy group is not growing, could it be because God's plan for us right now is to be diligent in focusing on the students who are already here? Perhaps there are ways He wants us to grow that would not be possible in a group where we can't truly know each one by name.

There is nothing we can do to force a young person to grow. The best we can do is pray like their lives depend on it (because they do) and seek the Lord's wisdom in creating environments that encourage their spiritual growth. Beyond that, we must remain open for the Lord to use us however possible in communicating His Truth and let Him be the one that makes the Truth penetrate their hearts and souls.

"We" means the entire adult congregation, not just the youth workers. Won't you add your prayers or pass along an idea to help us nurture them? We are blessed because this is a ministry that needs all of us.


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