Focus On What Matters - Three Questions We Ask Our Small Group Leaders

How do you train your SGLs (Small Group Leaders) to cater to different learning styles while they are leading their small group conversations?

How do you evaluate how your SGLs are leading their kids?

These are a few of the questions that we have been asking in our ministry over the first three months of the current ministry year. I wrote a short article for the 252 Kids blog on the Three Questions We Ask Our Small Group Leaders

We hope our kids have a knowledge of what is in the Bible but we deeply desire that our kids know how to take what they read and implement it into their lives every day. We want SGLs who will help shape worldviews that shape actions and beliefs that are carried out because our kids have the Word of God in their body, mind, and soul.

These are new questions for us as we strive to lead from a place that has an endpoint in mind. That endpoint is seeing all kids and students motivated by the Gospel so that they can live out their faith every day. 

I would love to hear how you evaluate and train your SGLs in the comments. 

Book Review - The Art Of Group Talk: How To Lead Better Conversations with Kids

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.  In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.

In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

Because before a kid can know God, they may need to be known by someone who knows God.
— The Art of Group Talk pg. 76

I just finished The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids after returning from #OC17 (Orange Conference) and I could not be more satisfied with what the book had to offer. If you have been a follower of the Orange strategy regarding small groups, which they call Tribes, then the content will be very familiar to you and almost sound like a repeating voice. This is what I have come to really appreciate from the Lead Small material, the content and strategy when it comes to implementing a small group mentality in your ministry.

Their first offering was Lead Small and it was the core content of the small group strategy that was considered essential in reaching kids and students not just with Biblical content, but by growing meaningful relationships with those in your small group.

The second book was Creating a Lead Small Culture and this took the core strategy and broke it down so a leader could see how to make the necessary tweaks to their ministry to implement the strategy. It was a great resource to use with core leaders who help shape the culture of your ministry. There was a great reading group and discussion guide that also helped take the content and personalize it for your ministry. I posted about this discussion guide here:

Book Study: Starting Over

The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids, shares with small group leaders how the strategy plays out in the conversations and the culture of your small group. It points to the importance of knowing your tribe so that life is shared and kids feel safe. It is a quick read, but the resulting change and comfort for small group leaders is worth the time.

Because before a kid can ENGAGE in a life of authentic faith, they may need you to ENGAGE them in a conversation about authentic faith.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 85

What I enjoyed about the book is that it states that the current phase of a child is just a piece in their development and that leaders need to be aware that development and growth in a child must be viewed from a larger context. Yes, what you do each week matters but it is what all these weeks add up to over time that shapes who a child becomes.

You’re a small group leader. So your destination isn’t just to help them learn or remember what they’ve heard from the stage. Your destination is to help your few personalize and apply what they’ve heard.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 101

Another great practical piece to The Art of Group Talk is the quiz section at the end of each chapter. These are practical questions to allow the reader to look at how they lead and how they can make small shifts to lead their few well.

Anyone who leads a small group would benefit from this book and its practical tips for having meaningful conversations with the kids and students that are in their tribe.

Lead Small
By Reggie Joiner, Tom Shefchunas

Challenging Students To Do More This Year

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to head up Muskoka way to speak to a group of students and staff for their last week of the camp season. The central theme that ran through the week was that they, the students, had an amazing opportunity this year to do more with the gifts and talents that God has blessed them with. I challenged them to think of ways that God could speak into their lives and how they could be attentive to the Holy Spirit's promptings to share their faith with others. 

The first challenge for the students is to think through what their gifts and talents God has given them and then to think through how they can use those talents to share their faith this upcoming year. I asked them if they believed that God is bigger than they could imagine and if they believed that God could use those same gifts and talents He placed within them to glorify how great He is. I asked them if they were willing to step out and use their gifts to glorify God in new ways this year. 

Discovering your dream is easier said than done. There is so much pressure to dream and become “certain” things in this world and as a result so many people struggle to discover who they really are. God has designed every one of us in a unique one-of-a-kind way. Perhaps it’s time to consider your dream, instead of the dreams others tell you that you should have. Maybe now is the time to consider who God has created you to be because only you can be you! God can give you a dream this week! 

They questions I gave to cabin leaders were: 

  • How would you define creativity?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • How can you use what you are passionate about to change the world around you?
  • If you were asked the same question by Jesus as Bartimaeus how would you respond? (“What do you want me to do for you?")
  • What truths about God are mentioned in Colossians 1:15-20? If those statements ae true, how do they make you feel and what are the implications of those truths?
  • What is the goal you are setting for this year regarding sharing your faith? What can you be praying to God about this week as you look to set your goal? 

I made the last challenge into a #hashtag challenge and created a specific tag for the week. You can do this for your group so they can share what their dreams are for this year. this will help create accountability among your own students.

How are you challenging your students this year to take steps of faith and to live out their faith everyday?




Serving out of stress.

— Not Normal: Seven Quirks of Incredible Volunteers | Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller

It sounds so simple to say that if something stresses you out you should stop doing it. However, sometimes it is not that easy. I think about the volunteers that I have worked with in the past and currently and I think about how there has to be people who serve around me that feel the stress of working with kids and teens and don't know how to step down, or feel pressure to stay where they are even though the joy is gone. 

You may be thinking what pressures keep volunteers from stepping down or to even speak up about how they feel. Well, some that I have experienced are: 

  • They don't know where else they can serve within the church. 
  • They see the overwhelming need of volunteers and don't want to add to that.
  • They don't want to disappoint those who are leading the ministry.
  • They don't want the kids to feel like they are abandoning them. 

Those are only a few of the pressures that volunteers face and many of them are extremely valid and hard to navigate without talking it out with the leader of the ministry or with trusted friends. A leaders job is to get people into their sweet spot of volunteering and serving God. 

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”
— I Peter 4:10 NIV

We are called to serve others, but we should not be holding people back from moving out of a stressful situation and into their sweet spot of volunteering. If some of the pressure can be addressed so that they can continue to serve where they are that is great, but if they need to move on we should be helping them find that spot.

But that doesn’t mean we give up. We look for someone new, and start over. If you had a bad experience we want to challenge you to start again someplace new.
— Not Normal: Seven Quirks of Incredible Volunteers | Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller

A leader should never place the pressure of finding a new volunteer on the person moving into their sweet spot. God provides and there is someone within the church who's sweet spot IS within your ministry. The leaders job is to help that person see the vision of the ministry and for the new volunteer to step in and run with their new role. We want to keep our volunteers from giving up on serving.

— Not Normal: Seven Quirks of Incredible Volunteers | Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller

As I read Not Normal last week I had so many great internal conversations with myself about our culture of volunteering and how to make it stronger and how to help volunteers feel more equipped to engage our kids on how they can live out their faith everyday. When we engage our volunteers to move from stress to sweet spot we show that serving out of joy is way better than serving out of obligation. 

Someone & Somewhere

Kids need TWO important NOUNS so they can anchor their lives to something solid.

They need a PERSON.

They need a PLACE.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture

This year, we have made a big push toward making sure all our leaders are oriented toward the same goal for all the children and youth that come into our church. We want them to be "Motivated by the Gospel to live out their faith everyday." This gives our leaders a sense of an end-goal and shows us where we want our kids to end up. How our leaders help our kids get to this end-goal will be determined by who that individual leader, as well as how they demonstrate that Jesus is working through them to influence the world around them. By giving our kids someone who is passionate about living for Christ, they become a witness to how Christ is at work in the lives of caring adults who serve within the church. 

In everyone’s story of faith, there are people who have shown up and become catalysts for their spiritual growth.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture

The interesting part that I have been thinking about is that our students have many other "someones" in their lives, and I have the awesome opportunity to speak to parents about the influence these other adults have in the lives of their children. I am a huge believer in mentors and how key people in your life can change the outcome of who you become. I see a direct link between my mentors and the decisions I make everyday. This fall, I can't wait to talk about the role of mentors for kids with the parents of our church, and I hope that I can help them leverage the influencers around their children so that these kids get motivated to live out their faith everyday. 

Once leaders embrace their role as a "someone" in a child's life we, need to emphasize the importance of a "somewhere." Contextually, a "somewhere" needs a few key elements to work well in children's ministry. It needs to be consistent with who the leaders are and where the teaching take place. Structure needs to be put in place so that relationships can thrive especially within children's ministry. Creating A Lead Small Culture puts it this way:

Belief influences behavior and behavior influences belief. They are the most important characteristics to understand when you are trying to shape a culture in your church.

Belief: The quality of relationships is linked to the quality of structure.

Behavior: Improve the structure.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture.

Your "somewhere" needs to be as equally important as the "someones" because until your behavior states that your "somewhere" is important it won't build the relationships needed (the ones that grow faith in the lives of the kids).

This year, we have strived to improve the structure of our Sunday mornings. We have functioned on Sundays for a few years with a large group/small group model for a few years, but there always seems to be a tension between what group has what function. The tension exists between who teaches the Bible story and who develops the application of that story, so our kids are equipped to live out their faith and the Bible lesson of that day. It is not a messy tension, but when the tension is not addressed, one of those key elements can be missed (and that applies to every ministry). Our "somewhere" needed to be given a clear directive so that our end-goal for our kids could be achieved. Each ministry needs to adapt their "somewhere" so that it is best suited to the needs of the students.

For us, our large group time is for teaching of biblical content, growth of spiritual disciplines, and time of group worship. Our small groups are set up for the growth of relationships that are stemmed from a consistent community of kids and leaders, the review of the Bible through memory verses, and how to apply the lessons in everyday ways. I am looking forward to a new ministry year because with every start, comes new questions and challenges as a leader.

Here are two questions that I hope you can wrestle through:

  1. How are you equipping parents to leverage the "someones" and their influence in their kids' lives? 
  2. How does your "somewhere" orient your ministry towards the end-goal you have for your kids?



*These are my thoughts from reading pages 1-37 of Creating A Lead Small Culture by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy & Elle Campbell

Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong
By Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, Elle Campbell

Book Study: Starting Over

I am reposting this because I am working through this book again over the next few weeks and I am looking forward to having some fresh eyes as I look at the study again. I hope to gain some new perspectives as we are heading into a new ministry year this September. 

I am really excited to start this new year off by joining many other kidmin and youth min. leaders (last time I checked it was over 900), as we read through Creating A Lead Small Culture together through an online book club. I have already read through this book once fully and the second time was a brief synopsis for another leader in a smaller church looking to implement Orange philosophy and the 252 Basics curriculum into their program. The book is full of great tips on how to connect your leaders with the kids they serve on a deeper level and how they can partner with parents so that together they can create more opportunities for spiritual development and deeper understandings on how God is at work in their lives everyday.

Every kid needs to be known by someone and to belong somewhere.

Most leaders agree. That’s one reason for a shift in the way many churches are discipling their kids and teenagers. Think of it this way: connecting kids and teens to a consistent leader who believes in God and believes in them is something the church can do that nothing else in culture does.

Here is how my next eight weeks are looking.

*I will be starting again on Aug. 12 and going until Sept. 13. 

*I will be starting again on Aug. 12 and going until Sept. 13. 

As I started Session One today I have already had a couple questions jump out at me and cause me to strongly reflect how Life Groups (We use Life Groups instead of Small Groups in the hopes that these groups will continue to grow together and do life together), function in our kidmin department.

The very first question is a tough one for many leaders because they simply want kids and parents to attend everything possible that happens within the church walls.

If kids only show up at church one time a week and experience one environment or participate in one activity, where would you tell them to go?

Wowzers, yep they said what every leader dreads to ask, or even think about. The thought that a family or a child might only pick one of the many great things that your ministry does. I have been wrestling with this question for months now:

How do we plan our ministries better to help families leverage their time together so that they spend more time as a family?

Think about it:

Kids ministry is one day, or night,
Youth Ministry is on one or two other nights.
Men’s ministry happens,
Women’s Ministry is another,
and church is on Sundays,

oh yeah don’t forget about after school activities and extra curricular activities.

Add all those days up and well you have one very exhausted and overwhelmed family.

Your greatest asset to building faith in the next generation is not your Bible study, worship band, facilities, or budget. The most valuable resources you have to help people see God are the people in your church who know God.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture

How do you react to that statement? With relief? Hesitation? Excitement? Explain Why?

What are your biggest obstacles when trying to connect every kid with a consistent adult leader?

What are some of your ideas so far for overcoming those obstacles?

Those are the main questions that I am going to be wrestling with this week. I want nothing more for my kids in our kidmin than for them to experience God through the caring adults that are in their lives. That is how they will understand who God is, how we works in their lives, and how He loves them unconditionally. By learning about God in a relational context I hope that our kids learn about a relational God that wants to have a consistent two-way relationship with them.

Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong
By Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, Elle Campbell