Back to Jesus: Small Group Youth Ministry

Aslan Youth Ministries
Aslan Youth Ministries (Facebook)

I totally revamped my approach to small groups in our ministry recently.

We have tried a multitude of curricula, ideas, books, formulas and approaches. It has been topical and as simple as opening the Bible and walking verse by verse. Still, I was finding an interesting trend. Many of my students who had grown up with us still stared at me blankly when I asked the question:

“What’s your relationship with Jesus look like?”

As I started to dig deeper, I learned some things about my students:

  • Many felt leaders cared more about them acting right than about what was going on in their lives.
  • Many felt like they had to get their life right before they could have real relationship with Christ.
  • Many felt like they were being told by family members that it’s all about church, whether they like church or not. This makes them not want to go to church.
  • Many felt like Jesus didn’t answer their prayers because He was too busy or didn’t truly care about the request or because they were supposed to do more for themselves.

They knew who Jesus was. They admitted they didn’t know Jesus.

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What did this mean for my students?

  • Telling them the “dos” and “don’ts” of a life with Christ just felt like an attack and caused defensiveness. (Some well-meaning leaders would tell them what music to listen to or what clothes to wear.)
  • They heard the Word but rarely listened to it. Even the most impassioned “speeches” were going in one ear and straight out the other. They weren’t applying it to their own lives on a daily basis.

What did this mean for my small group leaders?

  • In a desperate desire to get students to live for Jesus, there was a tendency to lecture them on right and wrong.
  • Leaders felt like they were on a hamster wheel to get students to change and live for Christ. They kept trying harder and harder to present the gospel, yet students remained apathetic.

(In a discussion with one leader recently, she actually used the words, “Just let me talk to them more; I can save them.”)

Ouch! This was becoming a lose/lose for everyone. No one felt heard or understood even when their hearts were in the right place.

So I sat down, prayed and decided to seek Jesus. I knew He wanted to reach these students in a way that caused them to understand His love. I knew it would take His salvation and moving and that I wouldn’t find a formula to put into action.

So what did I do? Tune in for Part 2 on how I threw my small groups on their head.

Have you noticed any of these trends with your students or leaders?

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County, N.J., and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

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