Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why Your Church College Ministry Needs Small Groups

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

Other than Christ himself, the greatest consistency among successful college ministries is a prevalence of small groups. They come in all shapes, sizes, and names – cell groups, small groups, study groups, Bible studies, core groups are just a sampling of the more commonly used nomenclature – but they all have the same basic premise. That is, by meeting with one another in groups of as small as 3 and as large as 20, we might know God and His church more deeply.

For many churches, that range of 3-20 is their entire college student population. Having small groups just seems, well... redundant. Besides, isn't that what campus ministries are doing?

Yes, small groups are the primary basis of campus ministries. However, if you don't connect and build relationships with students in the greater church while they're attending university, then why on earth would they come back to the greater church when they graduate?

Small Groups are Biblical

If you look at Jesus' ministry, it centers heavily around small groups. Jesus' core group of Peter, John, and James was a small group. So were the 12 disciples. The early church met together in their homes – I doubt you could fit a 3,000 member megachurch in a single home. I'm not advocating for abolishing large-group meetings, because the early church also met in large groups- we can read in Acts 2 how they were “devoted to the apostle's teaching.” But small groups promote something large groups cannot: relationship.

You hear all the time how Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Does your church reflect that mentality? Most of the college students I know would not say yes, and it is because they are not getting plugged into personal relationships with the rest of the church.

The easiest way to create relationships en-masse is small groups.

Church-Based Small Group Models

You are not a campus ministry, and that's fine. You don't have to cater to college students to target students and allow them to grow and flourish in the greater church body. Besides, you have something to offer that few campus ministries have: generations. With that in mind, here's 3 different models of student small groups that you can incorporate in your church:

- Students-only. College kids meet together to build relationship and pursue Jesus.
- Student-youth. College kids mentor your youth group to create stronger ties and teach discipleship like Christ taught it.
- Adult-student. Mothers, fathers, and people knee-deep in careers meet to disciple students.

Depending on your church's vision, you might consider different models of small groups. You should pray and choose the model that promotes your goals as a church while feeding your members and allowing them to mature into independent believers.

Small groups are the perfect place to begin training and raising up a new generation of believers who will stand for what they believe in. Give college students responsibilities. Allow them to lead. Teach them with love, and allow God to work through them, whether or not they've had training. Truly, people live up to your expectations of them, so don't be afraid to set the bar high. Just remember to be gracious and encouraging if it takes some time for them to reach the bar.

What do you think? Does your church use small groups? Is your church looking at using small groups? How will you incorporate college students into your church family?

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