5 Moves To Help Small Group Leaders Disciple Students
One of the constant tensions that many youth workers feel is that of attempting to meet the immediate felt needs of students, while also preparing them spiritually for their future. We often want to address current events and trending topics with our teens, but also know that it is our responsibility to equip them with timeless spiritual disciplines. How do we do it?
We see that Jesus’ model of discipleship was facilitated through small groups of people. He taught the masses, but intentionally and systematically engaged and spiritually equipped only a few. It only makes sense to me that we would follow Jesus’ model for discipleship in our ministries. However, this presents a problem. This means that, in even the smallest of youth ministries, our personal bandwidth to disciple others is limited. To increase the capacity for effective discipleship in our ministries, we have to increase the number of capable men and women who are available to invest spiritually in teens.
Here are 5 moves to help Small Group leaders disciple students:
Give them language.
“Discipleship” tends to be a somewhat ambiguous term that we need to define within our ministry context. We need to determine what a “disciple” of Jesus looks like, and articulate that to our leaders succinctly and memorably. In my church we have defined a “disciple” as one who “worships, witnesses, serves, and makes other disciples”. From this, we have a list of “life patterns” (i.e. spiritual disciplines) that we believe should be part of the life of a follower of Jesus. Bottom line, we need to give our Small Group leaders common language for discipleship that unifies our ministry and keeps leaders rowing in the same direction.
Give them personal discipleship.
Small Group leaders can not lead students where they have not been. We can not assume that leaders have been personally discipled just because they have been involved in a church for some amount of time. Furthermore, personal discipleship of our leaders models for them what they should pass on to their students. We have to know that our leaders have been taught how to study Scripture for themselves, how to pray, and how to articulate their faith (among many other things) before we can trust that they are able to equip our teens to do so.
Give them time and space.
If intentional discipleship of students is going to be a part of our ministry, we have to give your leaders time to do it. If discipleship is a value for us, our weekly ministry programming must be structured in a way that shows it. We need to ensure that our weekly and special events include significant time that is designated for the sole purpose of discipleship.
Give them a plan.
Once we’ve given our leaders language, and we’ve modeled personal discipleship to them, we need to give them a plan. We need to tell them exactly what we want them to do, and what success will look like. In my church, this occurs through a provided Small Group guide that has been intentionally crafted to equip students with the knowledge and habits we believe are essential for a follower of Jesus. At the beginning of each ministry year, we train our leaders on how to effectively facilitate a discipleship-based Small Group using this guide.
Give them follow-up.
It is essential that we check in with our leaders regularly to see how they are progressing in their discipleship journey with students. What things do they have to celebrate? What have been the challenges? How can we give them additional support or equipping? As one of my friends in ministry always says, “You have to inspect what you expect.”
The intentional discipleship of students has a lasting impact on their individual lives, but the process is transformative for our Small Group leaders and our overall ministry as well. As students learn to feed themselves spiritually, and they take personal spiritual initiative apart from our programs, true life-long transformation occurs! The hard work of building intentional discipleship into the fabric of our ministries enables our students to know, follow, and share Jesus regardless of where life takes them. It moves them from being consumers of our ministries to being ministers within our ministries! What more could we desire for them?
More ideas? Check out Retooling Small Groups For Next Year
Small Group leader resources are a powerful experience to help a leader step into a new way of practicing discipleship with students. Orange’s new When Relationships Matter or Josh + Doug’s 99 Thoughts For Small Group Leaders are a great place to start the conversation.
Also, check out these transformative sessions from the National Youth Worker Convention:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.