Small groups are essential for a healthy ministry. They foster relationships between students, which produces a community that can grow together in Christ, and they foster relationships between students and adults, which We all understand the more small groups we have, the better. Our job as student ministers is to encourage these groups of community, and make sure the students involved are reaching their friends with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of fulfilling this task is by discerning how we should group students together to make a small group.
As you read the different ways on how you can possibly group students together, keep in mind none of these groupings are magical, nor will they cause students to bust down your doors to get into your church. You should also keep in mind the right way to group students together is by the context of your church. All churches are different, and each one caters to the culture inside and outside their walls. What works for one church, many not work for your church, because they’re grouping students by what works best for them. With that said, here are 5 ways you can group your students together.
1. School: Depending on the size of your city, you may have multiple schools represented in your youth group. If so, consider grouping your students by the school they go to. This continues to foster the relationship your students already have together, and gives each small group a goal to reach their school.
2. Gender: Grouping your small groups by gender provides your guys and girls the opportunity to discuss issues they may not be comfortable with because the opposite sex is in the room. We need to be mindful that sometimes guys just need to be guys and girls just need to be girls, and grouping small groups by gender gives students that opportunity.
3. Grade: Each grade puts students at a different phase in life. Seniors are coming to terms with closing a major chapter in their life and starting a new one. While freshmen are just trying to survive. Grouping small groups by grade gives students, who are going through the same phase in life, the chance to connect and know they’re not alone. You can also group grades together i.e. upper classmen and lowerclassmen, or stagger grades i.e. seniors with sophomores and juniors with freshmen, to foster a mentor relationship. Grouping by grade can also be done by middle school and high school.
4. Geographically: This works well if you’re doing in-home small groups. You mark out geographic zones and everyone who lives within that zone is a part of that small group. What I like about this grouping is your zones don’t follow school district zones, which means you’ll connect students in group, who may not get to interact with each other as much, because they go to different schools.
5. Missional: Benjamin Kerns blogs at averageyouthministry.com as well as here on youthmin.org. In June he wrote a post called “What is Your View of Social Status on a High School Campus?” The post is about understanding the social structure of students, which is moving to clusters: an autonomous group of 6-10 students with their own hierarchy and power structure. Each school has its own culture, which is made up of subcultures (a student’s social status). We should consider the idea of grouping students by their subcultures because of the common interest they already share, which opens up the opportunity for that group to reach out to their own culture. I call this missional grouping because it truly reflects what a missionary does: equipping individuals within a culture to reach their own people group.
In the end, your small groups may already be grouped like some of these suggestions, or is a combination of two or three of them. My small groups are grouped by grade and gender and here’s why. I average around 35 students in my youth group, who represent multiple schools. However, I only have a couple of students from each school, so grouping them by school wouldn’t work for me. On top of that, I have some grades that have more students in it than other grades, plus some of those grades have more girls than guys in it. So with all of these factors to consider, I developed four small groups: one high school boys, one high school girls, one middle school boys, and one middle school girls. This is what works best for me. How do you group your small groups, and what are some possible obstacles you may face by grouping your students by one of these ways?