One of the benefits of living in a digital age is that information is readily available. Anything we want to know, we can generally discover within a few minutes of a Google search. Or, with a quick text, we can ask someone who knows. With information so easily available, meetings and discussion can take place on Facebook, through Twitter, on Instagram, or through any of the multitude of social media apps. The idea that everyone needs to gather together to have this kind of learning and discussion can be diminished. The question asked is, “What makes this gathering so important I can’t get the same information online and the same community through social media?” And this is only one of many reasons students see the group as an option. Extra-curricular activities, homework, and various other issues teenagers deal with can also lead to asking the question, “Why go to the student meeting?”
What can you do as a leader to ensure that your group is something students don’t want to miss? There are four key things you can do to ensure your meeting is something attendees don’t want to miss:
1. Authentic conversation.
While social media certainly provides an element of conversation perhaps more than has ever taken place in the history of the world, it cannot replace real, face-to-face dialog. As a leader do the following every time you meet:
• Ask attendees how they are living out their faith. Wait for an answer.
• Spend time discussing current events and issues important to your group. Whether it is band, sports, or the latest fad, discuss these things together as part of your meeting. If possible tie it to the session, but don’t force it.
• Engage students directly, talk to them and encourage them to talk to one another. If you remember things they are dealing with speak into them, make sure they know that you are aware of their issues and that you care.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is such an important one! Don’t let prayer simply be the ending to your meetings or the quick start to the session.
• Let students mention prayer needs. Ask students to pray.
• Have more than one person pray.
• Turn this part of your meeting into one of the most important things you do each time you meet.
Remember, they can’t get a group of people praying for them and with them anywhere else.
3. Group activity.
While students do things together all the time, they probably don’t spend a ton of time seeing how those activities apply the Bible to their life. This is a connection you can make in your meeting. You can plan for and lead group activity every time you meet, and if possible, you should! These times together can create memories for attendees that last forever. When students learn through doing, they are more likely to remember and apply what is taught to their lives.
• Use material that lends itself to activity.
• Look for group activities online; there are several helpful websites that provide tips, mixers, and group games that underscore a biblical point.
• Encourage students to lead the activities from time to time. You’ll be surprised at how well they do. And they will be more vested in the group when given opportunities.
4. Intentional leadership.
This is another one that seems commonplace but the reality is, you, as the leader, have the greatest opportunity to impact your group each time you meet. That one small conversation in which you encourage someone who is down can mean so much. Knowing when to set the lesson aside and face an issue that is really affecting your group instead is crucial. Groups that have intentional leaders always thrive because the leader understands that the session is really about helping students understand and live out the Word.
• Look for teachable moments, never let a big issue go. Help your group face these issues with biblical understanding.
• Know when to step in and take over and when to stay silent and let the group get there on their own. Sometimes silence is your most potent tool for encouraging growth.
• Pursue opportunities outside the group meeting to engage and lead your group. Discipleship is certainly not about a weekly time and place. But by leading beyond the weekly meeting, you will engage your students in a way that will encourage involvement in the group.
Imagine what would happen if your group looked forward to meeting together every week. Imagine the impact you could have for the kingdom if students saw the group as something that refreshed and encouraged them in their walk with Christ. Try the steps above and see if your students begin to attend more frequently providing a greater opportunity to impact them for the sake of the gospel.
Chris Swain is a 13 year student ministry veteran and currently serves in leadership for Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum.