August 3, 2017

Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong

A book recommendation from  Parker Haynes, Associate Minister at Myers Park UMC, Charlotte.

One of the reasons I love Creating a Lead Small Culture is because while we often talk about doing relational ministry and emphasize how the relationships Jesus cultivated in his ministry transformed people from followers into disciples, we rarely find practical help with this endeavor. But in this book on small group culture, Joiner, Ivy and Campbell not only talk about what a lead small culture is or what it looks like, but they give you the tools to implement it in your church. They identify the three major behaviors every ministry should embrace to create a culture where kids belong:

1)    Improve the structure
2)    Empower the leader
3)    Create the experience

We’re quick to over program the people in our church forgetting that they’re already over-programmed with everything going on in their lives. Improving the structure of your organization is not about creating more programs where people may or may not get to know one another. It’s about being more effective with the structure you already have to help your people connect with one another. There are steps you can take to make your programs more strategic with the end goal of connecting people in small groups. For Joiner, Ivy and Campbell, that’s what it’s all about – a culture where every single person is connected in a small group.

One of the most important keys to building a culture of small groups is empowering people to lead them. Pastors, staff, even board members cannot create and sustain a small group ministry on their own. Since Creating a Lead Small Culture is focused on youth and family ministry, this is critical because youth need adult mentors in their life (who needs parents?) and they need someone they can relate to. Adult volunteers must be the ones to do the bulk of the work and give up their time to make a difference by discipling others. This means that we, as clergy and ministry leaders, must empower them by letting go, stepping back and expecting more of them, not less.

The third crucial behavior for creating a small group culture is creating the experience. Essentially, just do the work you have planned and prepare for, but also always refine and reshape it. Just because you’ve improved the structure and recruited and empowered leaders to do ministry, you can’t make a kid talk during a group, make kids have fun with each other or make leaders relate to their youth. But you can create a message that is likely to provoke a conversation, create a physical space that appeals to your audience and evaluate the group connection to see where you can improve. The small group is not a lecture or bible study, it’s an experience and it has to be carefully crafted.

But probably the coolest part of this resource is that there is an accompanying app called Lead Small. You can scroll through their principles to leading a small group, look into the toolbox for helpful tips and even icebreakers and find videos to help you establish a small group culture. There’s a place to enter the information of “your few,” or the kids your small group, and to keep track of them during the week. There are also regular blog posts on small group ministry and devotionals to help you prepare and share with your own small group. You might not be an “app” person, but it’s at least worth looking into and seeing if this could help you empower your leaders rather than having them rely on you for all their information, devos and games.

You can watch their promo video and order the book and listen to Elle Campbell talk about the book on the Leadersheep Podcast or download it on your smartphone podcast app.
Leadership Development