Leading the Small Group

See: Role of the Teacher for the Small Group Leader meeting outline and the Student Leadership meeting outline.

Small group leaders are the foundation of this ministry. They allow students an opportunity to process the information presented by the teacher/facilitator in the large group session. The goal of the small group leader is to walk alongside, encourage, challenge, and support the students, wherever they are on life’s journey.

Why small groups?

In our postmodern culture, students live in an impersonal environment of large classes and computers, and all too often, they are in families too busy to meaningfully engage with one another. The Anchorsaway small groups are designed to foster meaningful relationships among students as they reflect God’s love for one another. They also provide a rich environment in which students can begin to internalize the lesson and from that, an authentic faith can be realized.

Small groups are NOT therapy sessions but a time to discover what students learned and how it will make a difference in their daily lives. They will have the privilege of praying for others and watching to see how God answers prayers while using each one in the group to be a part of encouraging each other.

What is the profile of an effective small group leader?

Small group leaders must be high school graduates who have a vision for the Anchorsaway ministry and a passion for encouraging young people to build a solid Christian worldview. They play a vital role in the leadership team, as they are the primary ones who will be developing personal relationships with the students. The following key characteristics are essential to maximize a small group leader’s effectiveness:

  • Calling from God for service as a small group leader, and the vision for what God can do through this ministry.
  • Diligence in prayer for each student, the facilitator and teaching leader, as well as the details of the ministry.
  • Demonstration of a consistent Christian witness, and credibility with students.
  • A servant’s heart that gives time, love, and energy – This ministry is not about any specific teacher or small group leader. It is solely about allowing God to use all leaders to accomplish His purposes in the life of each and every student.
  • Emphasis on spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and daily Bible reading.
  • Good listening and communication skills are essential.
  • Responding promptly when someone asks for information regarding the ministry.
  • Interest in developing a strong foundation and understanding of the Christian worldview (All leaders are strongly encouraged to read Chuck Colson’s book, How Now Shall We Live?, J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity and/or J. Budziszewski’s book, How to Stay Christian in College.)
  • Commitment to weekly preparation by reviewing the small group leader’s notes and completing the weekly devotionals found at the end of the written lessons.
  • Willingness to arrange personal schedules to miss no more than one or two classes a semester, as well as scheduling time away from class with a student or students, if necessary.
  • Discernment as to what and when to share in a small group discussion.
  • Planning and administrative abilities for small group outings, such as hosting a meal, meeting for ice cream, having pizza together, or attending a sporting event. It is strongly recommended that small group leaders plan an outing with their small groups within the first three weeks of class, in order to begin building group cohesiveness.
  • Perseverance and persistence in making contact with the students each week by phone, email or in person. This will include contacting students who were unable to attend a session, offering encouragement and assistance, letting them know they were missed, and meeting with them outside of class.
  • A time commitment to coach students. A coach’s role is to speak Truth to each student. This involves helping students see where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there.
  • Interest and self-discipline to follow-up with students, in some capacity, throughout the college years (For example: Send care packages or emails, make phone calls or personal visits.)
  • Ability to communicate, not only with the students and teacher, but also with the other small group leaders.

What are the components of an effective small group?

Community—growing together around shared experiences as Christians

  1. Ideally, there should be no more than 6-8 students in a small group.
  2. A student can choose to pass from answering a question in small and large groups.
  3. Groups are selected randomly. Friends are encouraged to be in different groups, but can be together if requested. There should be a mix of schools and churches in each group.
  4. Every student should have an opportunity to share each week, keeping in mind that small groups are not therapy sessions. Groups should not become focused around one individual’s issue to the exclusion of other students. If a student has a particular issue that requires extra time, it should be dealt with at the conclusion of class or at another time.
  5. Students should be encouraged to be a part of the get-togethers outside of class. There should be at least 2 or 3 events during the semester.
  6. Groups should have fun!

Outreach—sharing God’s Word and love with others

  1. Pray for family or friends who do not know Christ.
  2. Consider a group project, such as serving food at a city mission, visiting a hospital or nursing home, or even cleaning up a neighbor’s yard.
  3. Discuss conversations started with friends outside of the class, based on class topics.
  4. Students should be encouraged to invite non-Christian friends each week.

Worship—praising God for His nature, actions, and Word

  1. Realize that prayer and Scripture are the foundation of a group that works well.
  2. Pray for each other before the group is dismissed.
  3. Leave plenty of time for prayer requests, and have the students write them down in their handbooks. Refer to their requests when you email or talk to them during the week. Discuss answers to prayer the following week.
  4. Share a Psalm or verse that encourages reflection on the character of God.

How do I cope with problems in my small group?

Small groups are a great place for people to share from their heart, but this is a risky endeavor, and can sometimes create the possibility for problems. We have listed some potential problems and suggestions for how to deal with them, in order to help create the most effective, nurturing environment for these students.

  • There may be times when students disagree with some of the material presented. It is healthy for any small group to have different responses/reactions to the material presented. It is important to have a healthy exchange of opinions from each student, but always remember that the Bible is the final source of authority. If these discussions begin to become counterproductive, meet with those involved outside of the small group time to further discuss the issue.
  • The students may tend to look to the small group leader as an authority on these worldview topics. However, leaders should not feel like they have to have an answer for every question. They are not expected to be experts on the Christian worldview, but should be learners, sometimes right alongside the students. They should be willing to research each question raised, consult with the teaching leader, and then respond to the student during the next small group meeting.
  • The small group time is an opportunity to see from where each student is coming and to help them in their quest for understanding Truth. Students will appreciate the leader’s interest in their lives. This interest may cause some students to dominate the small group time by doing things such as monopolizing the time talking about their personal issues, interrupting others, judging others, or challenging leadership. It is the leader’s job to make sure there is enough time for everyone to have the opportunity to share or ask questions in the group. This can be accomplished through involving a dominant student in leadership, by having them help to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to talk, or by restating the question to redirect the discussion. If the problem persists, leaders may want to tell your the students that everyone has one time to contribute until everyone has had an opportunity to share.

The Lord is going to use you in the lives of these students as you seek Him and make yourself available!

*Important: Sometimes a student will suggest they are distressed/depressed and considering suicide. If this occurs, or if suicide is suspected of being an issue, the small group leader MUST inform the teaching leader/facilitator or administrator who can deal with the situation. Parents must be informed, as well as the church youth pastor, if the student attends a church. Make sure the student knows up front that you must tell these people, and that you will help him/her work through this. In some states and countries, it is mandatory that such threats be reported to the authorities. Please check with your state to see what the law requires.