Myth 1 – Children/youth can’t lead their own small groups
The truth is, children and youth can absolutely lead a group of their peers. Often peer lead groups build trust and meaningful discussion faster because the leader clearly understands the world of their peers. Yes, these younger leaders need adult support and encouragement. We had our middle schoolers leading small groups of their peers at youth group and they took a high level of ownership of these groups – praying for them, bringing in a treat for their group, connecting outside of youth group and investing in growing as a leader for their group. We had short training sessions for these young leaders on topics like how to deal with difficult people in your small group, how to encourage everyone to share, how to get your group praying, and how to care for each other in your group. Kids and youth lead small groups all the time at school, in clubs and on sports teams. We’ve got to give them opportunities to lead groups in the church too!
Myth 2 – The small group leader needs all the answers
The truth is, the role of the small group leader is much more as a coach or facilitator, than that of a teacher. The main teaching part can take place in large group time. The small group time is about helping people apply the Bible to their real, everyday lives (more on this later.) Therefore the small group leader doesn’t need all the answer, what the need to be able to do is listen and ask good open ended questions (or be given good questions to ask.) The 80/20 rule applies. The group participants should be doing 80% of the talking and the leader should be doing 20% or less of the talking.
Myth 3 – Small groups should focus on the Bible Story/Scripture
The truth is the Bible Story/Scripture gets presented most often during the large group time (opening/devo/sermon…). Small groups invite people to take the more abstract story and think it through with others who can help them apply it to their real life today. Small groups are about application, in the context of relationships. Kids/Youth grow with a leader they know. Small groups are a place where the leader and participants can take a genuine interest in each other lives. Small groups are the place to ask every time, “Where did you see God at work, this week, in your neighbourhoods (the places where you live, work, study and play)?” This allows kids and youth to get use to recognizing God’s work around them and through them. It helps them see God’s truth is meant to be applied and lived out. Small Groups push us towards application.
Myth 4 – The large group teaching time is more important than the small group time for kids
The truth is both are important, however kids/youth five years from now, or even next week, are more likely to remember the relationships built, support received, and applications discussed during their small group then they’ll remember the fantastic point you made in the teaching time. Small group time shows we value community and that life is not done in isolation.
Myth 5 – Kids/youth lives are easy, so small group time will be simple
The truth is if your small group time is simple, you’re missing getting to really know your kids/youth and the messiness of their lives. Kids and youth lives are complicated. There is no such thing as a trivial problem. If the kid/youth perceives it as a problem, it’s worth talking about together. Small groups for kids/youth are just as messy as adult small groups and can be a place where God teaches us how to show grace, love and support for others. Give time for kids/youth to get to know each other in the small group – share names, likes/dislikes, highs and lows in their life, celebrate joys, lament disappointments, share challenges… They will open up about their lives and struggles. Teach kids/youth to support, encourage and pray for each other in their small groups. These things are much more difficult to do, especially on a relational level, in a large group. Small group environments create space to sort through the messiness of our lives.
Myth 6 – Small Groups can’t change neighbourhoods
The truth is small groups of kids/youth are changing neighbourhoods in Atlantic Canada! They are finding ways to be good news in their schools, joining in welcoming new refugees to Canada, supporting kids affected by HIV/Aids to go to Kamp Tumaini, starting anti-bullying campaigns, partnering with the poor in fight poverty, starting Alpha groups in their schools, building relationships with lonely seniors, welcoming new people that move into the neighbourhood around their church, welcoming stranger to their group and much more. If kids, youth, children’s ministry and youth ministries are going to join God’s mission in our neighbourhoods in Atlantic Canada they’ve got to have groups where they can wrestle with what that means and how to live out the ways of Jesus every day. Furthermore, small groups can be powerful forces when they join their efforts to show and tell the Gospel in the neighbourhoods where they live, work, study and play. God is on mission and we join Him on that mission every day.