How to Start and Maintain Small Groups for High School Students

"I shudder at the thought of having to go into a group of some 30 to 40 teenagers to try to elicit some kind of enthusiastic participation," says Tony Campolo. "To get them … genuinely involved in a discussion would require a charisma and talent that only a superior species might possess."

I agree with Campolo. Even many who work with teens regularly feel the same way. That's why small groups are such a great way of reaching and teaching teens.

Small groups can be used in a youth ministry in at least two areas: as a primary system of care, support and discipleship for the youth of the church and as a method of outreach for teens who do not know Christ.

Types of Groups
The first question you might ask as you plan small groups for youth is: What types of groups are we gong to utilize? Actually, this decision involves several levels of choices. The first choice is whether you want to have student-led or adult-led groups or both.

Student-led groups are facilitated usually by juniors or seniors. Student leaders are recruited and trained in the summer. Permission for use of school facilities should be sought from school, if necessary, also during the summer. A great "kickoff" event is "Meet Me at the Pole" in September. Take the "pole" inside to launch small groups. These groups are usually designed to reproduce new groups when the number of participants reaches about twelve. An "apprentice leader" in the group prepares to launch a new group at some time during the year. Student-led groups can include at least four types.

  • Prayer Groups — Christian students meet before or after school to share and pray for their school and one another.

  • Share Groups — Christian and non-Christian students meet before or after school to discuss concerns. Students encourage and support each other and open and close with prayer.

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