My 6th Grade Small Group

Posted: September 22, 2012 in community, creativity, faith development, junior high ministry, learning, middle school ministry

Coming into my position as the Middle School Pastor, one of the things I knew I needed to do – for my own passion and sanity – was lead my own small group of guys. I love the large group teaching environment, casting vision, and developing programming. But where I really come alive, and where I really feel that I am discipling best, is within a small group of guys. It keeps me in tune with where our students are at and gives me the opportunity to pursue relational ministry (which isn’t easy with a MS youth group of 300).

And after leading middle school small groups for so long, I’ve learned that I’m still learning. So my idea was to create a weekly blog series where I re-cap my most recent small group with the 6th grade guys and talk through the creative and leadership lessons that I learned and that some of my readers might use. I was talking with one of our other 6th grade guy small group leaders who was so excited to be leading but also expressed how much he needed to learn. He was asking the other leaders for ideas on how to lead a 6th grade guys group. My hope is that this blog series will highlight my successes AND failures (there will be many of the latter, I’m sure) in order to give an idea or two to any middle school small group leader.

Each week I will have a few elements to each group re-cap:

  • Content: What was the big idea? What did we hope the guys would take-away from the group?
  • Creativity: What did we creatively do to get the guys talking? And more importantly, did it work?
  • Cool Moments: Were there any cool moments where God really moved? Often times we don’t stop long enough to celebrate the little moments where the Holy Spirit is present in our small groups.
  • Changes Needed: What do we need to change in the group dynamic to improve the experience in the future?

To help you understand our specific group, I am co-leading with a volunteer (Austin) who is a college sophomore at Asbury. As of right now, we have 9 sixth-grade boys. Four of them go to a Christian private school, and five go to public schools. It’s a good mix. For this first post, I am going to re-cap our first two weeks, since we’ve had two small groups already. (**As a side note, we call our small groups “Life Groups,” but for the sake of universal understanding, I will be calling them small groups in this series.)

Also, to protect the guys’ privacy, I won’t use real names when describing our discussions.

Week 1 and Week 2

Content: In the first two weeks we had two main goals – get to know the guys, and set the tone for what small group is all about. In week 1, we came up with expectations as a group (I included the picture to the right for you to enjoy!). In week 2, we talked about what it meant to be a community of guys. We focused on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 and the idea of “sharing our lives” with one another. I also gave the guys an opportunity to talk about what they wanted to learn about the most, as our small group leaders have a large set of curriculum (the Uncommon Junior High Group studies by Kara Powell) they can choose from with many different topics. The most popular were the Armor of God, Parents & Family, and Emotions & Dating. The last one was a little bit of a shocker for me with 6th grade guys!

Creativity: In week 1, I stole an idea I got from Rick Lawrence over at Group Publishing (thanks Rick!). I got a wide variety of objects like a rubber band, a crushed soda can, an empty cup, a domino, etc., and asked the guys to choose an object that best symbolized their experience in middle school so far. This gave the guys an opportunity to connect their abstract emotions with a concrete object they knew and understood (See my previous blog here for more on the middle school brain). The answers were amazing! Then I asked a second question: Choose an object that best describes your relationship with your family. Again, more incredible answers. And finally, I asked them to choose an object that best describes their relationship with God right now. One guy chose a crushed Coke can and said that his relationship used to be strong like a normal can but has recently felt weak and crushed like the one in his hand. WOW.

Cool Moments: The coolest moment for me was when the guy was sharing about his relationship with God with the crushed can. As he finished up sharing he began to tear up (Keep in mind this was our first ever meeting). Another guy in the group got up in that moment and went to him and put his arm around him in support. That was one of those moments in middle school ministry that I’ll never forget. Other guys also shared about some deep struggles they’re having with the pressure of school and family expectations. I love the trust factor we already have developed in the group.

Changes Needed: In week 2 my co-leader was absent due to some circumstances out of his control, and the guys came with a LOT of energy. At times it was very hard to get them serious about what we were doing. I’m sure it would have been easier with my co-leader, but even a middle school pastor can struggle with keeping order in the room sometimes! I think I need to take note of the success of the “objects” icebreaker I described above and develop other ways of having discussion around physical objects as opposed to just talking. I’m already thinking about how I can use play-doh and Legos (one of the guys came to small group WITH a pack of Legos – love this age group!) to have meaningful conversation. If you’ve done something like this before, by all means, pass on your creative ideas!

So that’s it! Whether you’re a parent or a small group leader or a pastor, let’s collaborate and swap ideas. We are better together than we are alone!

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