6 Ways to Better Engage Your Students in Small Group

March 8, 2016     Jonathan Holmes    

I believe in students connecting in small group environments. Small groups have always been a cornerstone of every ministry I have been a part of and their environments consume about 60% of my entire workload. It is hard work to create -> maintain -> encourage small groups and it is just as hard finding -> equipping -> keeping small group leaders. Everything about small groups is hard work, but I hope this short blog is something that you can share with your small group leaders as they have agreed to work alongside you in your small groups.


1) Encourage the Next Step

We celebrate the big things in a student’s lives; birthdays, graduations, awards, and good grades, but we need to also celebrate their steps in the right direction. The application in our lessons need to encourage students to jump in, dig deeper, and go all in.  However, what are the steps that they need to take before they get there? A lot of times an application will stick better when it focuses on the next step a student could take towards gospel-motivated obedience.

2) Small Groups Target the Individual

The large group setting is more objective and a “big picture” look at Scripture. The hope is that the application points hit some of the students, but the message’s target is like a shotgun spread at a bunch of different targets. The small group setting is totally subjective, allowing students to be challenged individually, because they are known, it is in an environment of trust, and grace is the motive. The small group leader thinks about their students and aims at their struggles, issues, hopes, and dreams.

3) Think Bigger

The next step is so important, but share the incredible dream of the big picture. Taking steps today means following Jesus a little closer tomorrow. Challenge your small group students to do something they think is scary. Walk them through the gospel and ask them if they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, challenge them to step out for the cause of Christ in baptism, or even invite students on the next serving opportunity. The balance is to show your students the accessibility of the next step in the Christian life, while keeping the big picture in mind.

4) Walk with Them

A small group leader is not something you do for an hour every week, rather it is the choice to live life in the awkward mess of the teenage years. What would it look like if, as a small group leader, you walked with your students through the prayer request they shared at your last gathering? What would it look like if you held your students accountable for reading God’s Word and engaging in worship? The greatest impact you will make on a student is by walking beside them in their mess and being a Gospel voice through it.

5) Open Up

Does your small group feel fake and closed off? The place to initiate change in your small group is to examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5). If you feel the need to be perfect or closed off, then that is going to drip down to the students you lead. Examine your own heart, before you call them out.

6) Get Organized

Your students know when you are not prepared. It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are or how great of friends you are with them, you won’t be able to fool them. Every 30 minutes you spend on the front-end getting organized by thinking through application, creating icebreakers, and knowing the material will pay incredible dividends in your discussion during small group. If small groups are not going well, then your natural tendency will be to blame it on the immaturity of your students. Challenge yourself to double the time you spend preparing, praying, and memorizing to see if there is something you can improve on in order to better engage your students.


Share below one of the best ways that you engage with students in your small group!

Categories: blog, Blog Series, Jonathan Holmes, Resources, Small Groups, Volunteers

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