Wednesday, May 13, 2015

College and Youth Ministry Small Group Models

This is a guest post from Elizabeth Hobbs, a missionary kid who grew up in Poland with parents who were reaching out to European college students. These day's she's heavily involved with her local Chi Alpha campus ministry on the University of Wyoming, and applying the lessons she's learned from college ministry to all student ministry.

One of the beautiful things about small groups is that there's not a right or a wrong way to do them. If you can imagine a way to get a group of people together seeking God with intentional hearts, then that is a correct way to do small groups. That being said, here's a couple common small group models and curriculums to help you get a grasp on the concept before you let your imagination run loose.

Follow a Curriculum

There's plenty of material out there to guide a small group. From books to DVDs to webseries, there's something out there that'll cover almost any topic and age group. All you have to do is choose a topic, and a quick Google search will yield a plethora of things to choose from.

For example, say your group wants to learn about prayer. You head over to Amazon and have everyone pick up a copy of something like
Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick. Every week you read a chapter and discuss what you read. Even within this model there's lots of room for freedom. Here's some ways this model is commonly used:

- Everyone reads the chapter/watches the Youtube clip before coming to small group. You spend the small group time analyzing into the depths of what the author said.
- Everyone reads the chapter/watches the Youtube clip before coming to small group. You spend the small group time finding and going through biblical passages that give a further understanding of the topic.
- You read the chapter/watch the Youtube clip together during small group and discuss it as a group in the remaining time.
- Any of the above, but you break into pairs to discuss/find scripture, and come back together towards the end to share your discoveries.

Following a curriculum is a great option for groups of people who are just getting to know one another, especially if they are at different levels of spiritual maturity.

Make Your Way Through the Bible

While this model is more challenging for leaders than following a curriculum, in my experience going straight to the word of God allows participants to engage more deeply in a spiritual manner. As useful as it can be to have an author or speaker explain biblical principles, followers of Christ need to know how to feed themselves from the Word.

How you go through the Bible is less important than that you consistently spend your small group time reading, discussing, and trying to understand how to apply the Bible. You can go through chronologically, topically, or any other variety of ways – even if you randomly choose a chapter each week, engaging scripture consistently produces repentance and life-change.

In the coming weeks, I'll be posting Bible studies that you can use to help guide your small groups if you choose to go through the Bible, so keep your eyes open!

Other Small Group Dynamics

No matter what the bread and meat of your small group is, there are lots of toppings you can sprinkle from week-to-week to diversify your small group experience. Here's some suggestions:

- Icebreaker activities
- Worship
- Pray scripture
- Prayer-walk your community
- Take communion together
- Break into pairs to pray for one another
- Meet somewhere you don't usually meet (coffee shop, park, etc.)
- Have a younger participant lead the session
- Go serve someone together (mow lawns, shovel walks, volunteer at shelters)

Don't adhere to a model just because it's comfortable – give yourself and your group room to stretch and grow. Part of the beauty of small groups is their lack of structure and flexible nature to do whatever you need to for the group to engage with one another and Jesus.

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