There's no right or wrong way to pray for your group members, but know that prayer makes a difference. Watch God do big things in the lives of your small-group members. Watch God do big things in your life as a small-group leader.
How well do you know the students in your small group? How well do they know you? Earlier I mentioned being prepared by doing things to keep your group connected throughout the week. Being personal means building individual connections with group members.
I often talk about drive-through and sit-down relational experiences. Sometimes life is busy, and all you have time for is a quick trip through the drive-through. It isn't the best meal in the world, but it will sustain you for the short-term. Strive to make weekly personal drive-through connections with your group members—quick little reminders to students so they know they matter to you. This might be a quick text, stopping into the place they work, or just having a short conversation between services on a Sunday morning. These simple reminders help sustain your personal connection.
We can't, however, live on drive-through all the time. We need to have actual sit-down meals when we take a little longer in order to have a more beneficial experience. Go to a student's soccer game, band concert, or play. Attend important events like graduations, Boy Scout achievements, or scholarship nights. What if you had a sit-down experience with each student at least once a semester? How about once a month? This type of personal connection requires a bit of planning, but the result is well worth the investment of time.
Small-group leader, you probably don't hear it enough, but you matter. A lot. The work you do is incredible. The ministry you are part of needs you more than you realize. Youth ministry is stressful at times, but thank you for sticking with it.
I know that there is more to your life than the students in your small group. I know that it may seem impossible to find open space in your calendar to invest in them more than during your weekly meetings. But let me ask you this: Why did you want to lead a small group?
Seriously, why did you get into this role? I'm guessing it had something to do with wanting to help young people navigate the crazy world we're living in, and helping them find and follow Jesus Christ. Isn't the kingdom of God worth our time and attention? I want to challenge you to see the potential your role offers, to dig just a little bit deeper and try something new. Take the first steps to be prepared, prayerful, and personal, and see what God does with your efforts.
—Ryan Schaible is the Youth Ministries Director at Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois; copyright 2015 by Christianity Today.
1. How much time do you spend preparing for your group time each week? Is it sufficient?
2. How can you make it a regular practice to pray for your students by name?
3. What are some ideas for making personal connections with your students?