It depends on your purpose.
Are you small groups relational based or discipleship based? Or are they both? Is the point that kids connect with a leader who can speak into their lives or is the point that the kids dive deeper into God’s word and a more personal atmosphere?
When I first started small groups, I was following Craig Jutila’s model. Although my small groups were relational (kinda unavoidable) I wanted the focus to be discipleship. I wanted the kids to go deeper. So, I created my small group program on Wednesday nights. Because I was trying to take kids to the next level, I really only wanted the kids who wanted to be there. I even charged $25 or $30 to cover their books and materials. After two years of running small groups this way, we saw more an more kids connected relationally with each other and with their leaders each year. In addition, they were growing in their faith and knowledge of the Bible.
When I moved to Gateway a year ago, it was obvious that one of the very first things I needed to do was to launch small groups in the elementary program. The parents as well as my leadership were begging for it. There were too many things to tweak and fix, so I was not about to start a Wednesday night small group program. Instead I developed a small group program for Sunday services. I don’t know if it was becasue of small groups or not, but our elementary areas grew by 20% to 30% in the last 9 months. Because our Sunday services are primarily seeker friendly, these small groups are mostly relational, not spiritually deep.
If you’re trying out figure out out how to implement a small group ministry, ask yourself these questions:
When’s the optimal time/day (during weekend services or mid-week sometime)?
What’s the purpose (relational or discipleship)?
Who’s the target audience (anyone or kids ready to take next steps)?
Oh, one last thing. This doesn’t have to be your strategy, but I’ve always created small group environments where small group leaders primarily focus on only the relationship. That means for Sunday morning small groups, we provide large group teaching or for discipleship groups there was a primary teacher and kids sat in groups with their small group leader. This means I don’t expect my small group leaders to teach a lesson. They typically just ask discussion questions and maybe lead a little activity. I’d rather have them initiating contact with their kids outside of class than preparing for a lesson. I also recognize that not all my small group leaders will be good teachers, but most of them can be a friend/mentor.
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