Keeping these principles in mind will ensure your success as a Small Group Leader!
It’s a Journey
This is important to remember as you set the pace to travel alongside your students. Building relationships requires not only an investment of caring, but also time. As a leader, it’s vital to view your role in the lives of your students as a marathon, not a sprint. Once you have won the heart of a student, you can leverage that relationship into invaluable influence. This takes time. We don’t want you to burn out, so pace yourself. Students, as well as their parents, will respond to your diligence and longstanding enthusiasm.
Time on their Turf
Meet students where their life is happening. If we were to put this essential into an equation, it would look like this: 1 day on “their turf” = 10 Sundays in small group. “Their turf” is any environment that is personal to a student. For example, their basketball game, their piano recital, their favorite mall or movie theater. Actions speak louder than words. It makes sense that simply showing up speaks volumes to your students of your commitment to do life with them. Doing so creates trust, accelerates community and builds common ground between you and them.
This is perhaps the most vital of our five essentials. Prioritize your own personal relationship with Jesus over anything and everything. If you aren’t growing in your faith relationship, it isn’t likely you’ll be proficient or equipped to lead others in this way. Effective small group leading means you do so out of an overflow of your own love, faith and discipline.
Keep it Real
Stay true to yourself. Just be you! Being honest and real can be difficult in any environment and student ministry is no different. It’s going to be intimidating at times, but simply being who you are is vital to your group’s success. Saying “I don’t know” is not a sign of failure, but of honesty and vulnerability. When your students see you being open in this way, they’re more likely to do the same. Remember, being who you are gives your students permission to be who they are. And that’s the heart of small groups, isn’t it?
Partner with Parents
Connect with the adults in your students’ lives and keep them involved and informed. Regardless of what we may think of someone’s parents, they are the Biblical authority in their student’s life. As a Small Group Leader, it is your job to encourage this relationship by whatever means possible. Just as you are not parentally responsible for a student, you are also not responsible for the student’s spiritual development. That’s a job for Mom or Dad. However, while the weight of their faith is not on your shoulders, God has chosen you as someone who can encourage, guide and model his love for students and parents alike.