starting later this month, i’ll be speaking in 5 locations for barefoot ministries’ $5 training. it’s a very cool half day of training, for (can you guess?), five dollars. the day is targeted at volunteer youth workers, and is ideal for teams to attend together. check out the $5 training site for more info and locations.
the second seminar that day will be on leading small groups. i also wrote a short ebook for barefoot on this subject. here’s a bit from that ebook on the value of small:
Americans love all things big (and if you’re a Canadian, you are welcome to snidely agree; but while you might not share the same passion for big, I’ve still seen how Canadians assume that big ministries are better). And we have developed a strange measuring stick for success over the last couple hundred years or so. We inherently believe that Big Means Success.
Even if you hold a healthy skepticism about this measuring stick, it’s a value that permeates the church world.
But let’s undermine this for a bit. I’m going to create a comparison chart, and I’ll be the first to admit that there’s some overstatement and generalization on this thing. Bear with me, and look for at least some truth here:
Big values compliance | Small values uniqueness
Big requires sameness | Small has space for differentiation
Big is ideally suited for broadcasting a message or rallying the troops | Small is ideally suited for collaboration or discovery
Big treats participants as consumers | Small treat participants as participants
Big is great for hype | Small is great for ownership
Big shapes a movement | Small shapes individuals and community
Big is stage-centric | Small is people-centric
Big is personality driven or program driven | Small is relationship driven or, better yet, present
Big, when it comes to youth ministry, has its place. I haven’t given up on large-group teaching times or worship or moving a larger group toward a common goal.
But if we really want to see ownership of adolescent faith, and if we want to see faith lived out in the daily lives of teenagers, we have to get them talking and sharing honestly. That rarely happens in a larger group.
In a smaller context, everyone can be known, and an environment of emotional and relational safety can be fostered.
While there are myriad ways to live into the value of small, it has to be part of the core DNA of an effective youth ministry these days. This is particularly true since today’s teenagers have such a heightened need for belonging.