Small Groups are Terrifying

by on in Small Groups.

I believe in creating a ministry culture of small groups and Small Group Leaders. I think it’s the answer. I believe small groups are the answer because I believe the Gospel is the answer. And I believe small groups are the best way to bury that gospel deep in the hearts of students.

But creating a groups culture is really hard. It requires you to find great leaders who can gain influence with kids, because the stuff they’ll need to dig and work through can only be done in the context of trust, influence, accountability, and community. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Do you want to build a ministry that values small groups?
Then you should be terrified.

The truth is, if Small Group Leaders are successful in building trust and influence with students, some very intimidating situations are going to come up.

With trust comes real questions…
With trust comes real confessions…
With trust comes what’s really going on inside…

And that can be terrifying.

I’m not sure I believe anymore.
When I was younger and older cousin took me into another room and….
How do I know if my dad is drinking too much?
I think there is something wrong with me, sometimes I feel attracted to…

Scary, right?

If you think your SGL’s are ready for this, you are living in a dream world. I’m not even ready for them and I’m a “professionally trained” Christian.

But, ready or not, if you do a good job of creating great small groups, these situations are going to happen.

It’s almost as if the surfacing of deep issues is actually an indicator of your success.

Here’s what I can promise you. Some of your kids are dying to ask those questions and make those statements. They’re going to ask someone. They’re going to tell someone.

So if they’re going to tell someone, who would you want that someone to be?

(I know, I know… parents. But, let me ask you. Would you have made those statements to your parents? Not me.)

So… who else would you want it to be?

I want that someone to be the church. And, in my world, that means the Small Group Leader. That’s the person I want my students to share their scary stuff with.

So, how do you get your Small Group Leaders ready for every single question that is coming down the pipe? How do you make sure they are going to handle every single issue with stunning theological accuracy and ministry ninja-ness?

You don’t. You can’t.

The truth is, you have to take these situations as they come. One at a time… student by student… SGL by SGL… parent by parent.

But, really, what do we say to SGLs to get them ready? We’ve got to say something, right?

Yup! I have put together a list of ideas, tips, and themes to prepare your SGL’s for the scary stuff. These come from years of working with students and great leaders and mentors like Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner. Here we go.

1. STAY CALM! Your face will reveal more than you think. It has been said that students will not remember what you say in those moments, but they will remember how you made them feel.

2. ASK QUESTIONS. I have heard it said that the person who asks the questions controls the conversation. Continue to ask clarifying questions. Don’t assume one word means what you think it means until you clarify.

3. DON’T FEAR SILENCE. So many times we feel like we need to fill the silence, so we say words that are not well thought out. Don’t. Silence is a good indicator you are moving at a good pace. Wait. Eventually, the student will probably fill that silence with more information to give you a better idea of where they are coming from.

4. ACCEPT THEM. Your number one goal in that moment is to accept them. It is NOT to change them, correct them, or teach them. There is plenty of time for that later if they situation calls for that.

5. THANK THEM FOR TELLING YOU. Say things like; “I am so proud of you for telling me that,” and “You are so brave!” These can be healing statements.

6. ASK IF THEIR PARENTS KNOW. Chances are, they do not. Most of the time, that will be a next step. But that is a whole separate blog though!

7. “I DON’T KNOW” IS A GREAT ANSWER. That is, as long as you come back around and get back with them. Use it! Buy yourself time to get some advice.

8. YOU ARE NOT A COUNSELOR OR PARENTS. Your job is to stand beside them as they work through this process.


10. FIND OUT IF THERE ARE LAWS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT.  Often states will have laws that require you to report certain things.

It’s scary, huh?

Maybe this is what is meant when we say we are called to be courageous!

What other things would you tell your SGLs about these conversations? Let us know.