One of the key responsibilities of our leaders is to take on a group of students that is much smaller than the whole in an effort to build relationships through which spiritual content can be passed and true growth can be encouraged. Jesus took aside His 12 closest followers out of the thousands who followed Him. And even among those 12, He had 3 who were able to witness things no one else could.
Relationship Over Content
One of the traps that small group leaders fall into is the curriculum snare. We get so caught up in making it through the content of the lesson that we can’t get away from it long enough to consider the needs or questions of the students in our group. Here’s the kicker: our students don’t care about the content of the curriculum until they get a real sense that you are speaking from a place of deep care for them personally. It’s the old adage: Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Yes, obviously, I want you to communicate the truths of Scripture to our students. But to do that effectively we must take the time to communicate that we are there because we love them and want what is best for them. Here are a few starters for communicating to the students that you care for them in the small group setting:
- Connect with your students outside of the small group. Go to a game, invite them out for a soda, send a series of text messages, interact with them on social media, or send a postcard with a hand-written message.
- Take a few moments each session to find out about how life is going, and pray specifically for any needs that come up.
- Don’t allow put downs or sarcastic comments in the small group discussion. It may seem like playful banter, but it can be a relationship killer if the student isn’t in on the game.
- Make sure everyone can be heard in the discussion. Don’t let one person dominate the discussion and don’t allow chaos to drown out someone’s voice.
- Be vulnerable and share your story as it relates to the group. A relationship goes 2 ways, if we want our students to be open, we have to be open also (within reason).
- What works for you? Please send me a message with more ideas for how to build authentic relationships in a small group context!