Tag Archives: youth ministry small groups

discussion dice

i was trying to think of a creative way to get my 8th grade guys talking about their hopes and fears for the summer, their freshman years and beyond. this week is our final regular small group meeting (we have a small group party next week); and, as i’ve posted before, this group has been particularly tough to engage in meaningful conversation about…well…anything.

since we’ve been re-orienting these last few weeks (me and my co-leader), and attempting to both finish well and meet the guys at their level of interest and desire, rather than ours, i knew whatever we did needed to be fun. so i came up with an idea that i’m hoping will fit the bill.

i’ve seen ‘discussion dice’ before from other publishers. so i cut up a discarded amazon shipment box and taped together some very low-tech dice. i created 6 sharing prompts for one of the dice:

  • What are you excited about for this summer?
  • What are you anxious about for this summer?
  • What hopes do you have for your freshman year?
  • What makes you nervous about your freshman year?
  • What changes do you want to make in how you live your faith in high school?
  • What changes do you want to make in yourself for high school?

and i created 6 ‘reward’ items for the second dice (yes, i know the singular of dice is die — deal with it; and, no, not all of the 6 options are truly ‘rewards’ — gotta make it fun!). if they answer the prompt on the first dice honestly (as judged by me and my co-leader), then they get to roll the second dice:

  • Choose 1 Snack
  • Choose 2 Snacks
  • Choose 1 Drink
  • Choose 1 Drink
  • Admit an awkward truth about yourself
  • Crossfit Workout! (Spin around for 30 seconds, run in place for 1 minute, do 3 push-ups, do 5 jumping jacks)

i’ll pick up some drinks and small candy/snacky items, and we should be good to go! but, uh, who knows? could be awesome; could crash and burn when the 2nd guy crushes one of the dice.


overheard at my 7th grade guys small group

IMG_3870i think this will be the last installment of “overheard at my 7th grade guys small group”! our group meets tonight for a final swim party, but then we take the summer off. hopefully i’ll be back with the new “overheard at my 8th grade guys small group” in the fall!

in the mean time, here’s some gems from a recent small group time:

7th grade guy: We didn’t have school today because the bathrooms aren’t working

7th grade guy: We need to have movie night!
another 7th grade guy, totally serious: Can we watch brokeback mountain?

7th grade guy: I learned to play the hardest song in the world on bass: you don’t know you’re beautiful by one direction.

first 7th grade guy: You had school testing on your birthday? That’s the worst birthday ever.
second 7th grade guy, mumbling to himself: I think dying of cancer on your birthday would be the worst birthday ever.

7th grade guy: My low was that I sharted in class yesterday.

7th grade guy: I’ll tell you how to make a great mustache. Step one: do you have a cork?

7th grade guy, after a bunch of them put their feet on the table: I had my feet on the table before it was cool.

7th grade guy: Denzel Washington, the best actor ever. So darn cool. So darn clever.

first 7th grade guy: He died of a flesh eating disease. I forget what it’s called.
second 7th grade guy: Necrophelia?

7th grade guy on why moms are awesome: she has to go through three minutes of agonizing pain to get you

7th grade guy: Have you ever noticed that the bears Elisha called out of the woods to maul the boys mauled 42 of them, and 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

and remember: if you’re the kind of youth worker who actually likes middle schoolers, you need to join us at the 3rd annual middle school ministry campference!

the value of small

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.

be ready for a great small group when you least expect it

my most recent middle school ministry column for youthworker journal is online now. i called it “the fifth week”, based on the rough approximation that 4 out of 5 weeks in my middle school guys small group feel nominally productive at best. but that fifth week…

the point of the article: be ready for a great time of deep discussion to show up when you least expect it.

here’s the first few ‘graphs:

I lead a small group of seventh grade guys in my home each Wednesday night. Four out of five weeks feel like we barely accomplish anything (whatever that means!).

That fifth week, though. Hmm! That’s the one that keeps me coming back week in and week out. It’s like the chip shot that magically drops in the hole—after the stinkiest round of golf in the history of links—and leads me to think, “I can do this!”

I had one of these “fifth weeks” recently. It started out looking like it was going to be the worst small group time of the month. I hadn’t prepared a thing. My co-leader had the DVD curriculum. After an uncommonly unruly 30 minutes of sharing highs and lows of our week, I turned to my co-leader and asked if we could pop in the DVD. “Uh, I think I left it at home,” he said. Time to punt!

click through to read the rest.