A Shout Out To The Small Youth Groups

Is Bigger Better?

The bigger your youth group, the better, right? We get a special energy from the buzz of a crowd. We believe that when we’re connected to more people we’re able to have more impact. But is this really the case in youth ministry? Most of us have the feeling that this approach is flawed.

At a time when youth groups in UK churches are, on average, smaller than in any recent history, what does this mean? What new narative do we need; the paradigm shift we must go through to understand our times and needs?

A Transition to Discipleship

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Reign Ministries, at its core, exists to train and coach youth leaders to become disciple-makers and to lead disciple-making ministries. So there is little surprise that we advocate strongly for a shift towards discipleship. This could be interpreted in many ways, so let’s unpack it a little more.

When Jesus was doing his thing, we didn’t see him lead Scripture classes or Bible study groups. He didn’t sign his followers up into groups and arrange a curriculum for them. There wasn’t the football tournaments, or weekly ice breaker games. Instead, he did life alongside them; using everyday situations to teach, demonstrate and challenge the followers around him.

Small youth groups are perfectly placed to adopt a model of discipleship. To personally come alongside young people on a journey of faith is not possible when you lead a crowd. With a small youth group, you can ensure all young people have someone who is a step ahead of them in their faith journey; helping them to grow, process life and wrestle with beliefs about God.

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Paul describes this model in 2 Timothy. He has been discipling Timothy for several years, seeing it as a father-son relationship. He tells Timothy to entrust Paul’s teaching to “reliable men” within the church in Ephesus. Yet he also expects that these reliable men should be able to teach others. It’s like a waterfall of spiritual growth as God’s word and instruction cascade from one to another to another.  Paul to Timothy to “reliable men” to others.

“For many years as a youth minister, I thought discipleship meant arranging Bible studies and worship services for my young people,” said one of our staff team.   Those are good things in themselves of course. But true discipleship is investing in an individual and helping them to navigate life with God at the centre.

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Do you have six young people in your youth group? Great. Now find a few adults who can invest a little time in meeting one to one with these young people. Train and guide them on what they should do, how to follow your safeguarding policy, and how to disciple. Eventually, they will be able to encourage the young people to start discipling someone themselves; someone younger, or newer on their faith journey.

For decades, a ‘successful’ youth ministry has looked like large, programme-based groups; leaving those youth leaders with a handful of young people wondering if they’re ‘doing it right’. The exciting news is that these leaders can pioneer the way of discipleship; being an example of how to see young people impacted and growing in faith. Seeing churches come alive with a new generation of mature, faith-filled leaders.

Expand: Online – Over to You

Reign Ministries has recently launched an online training programme to equip youth leaders, whether paid or voluntary, to know who, what and how to disciple young people.  Expand: Online consists of three 90 minute sessions, where you will be given the tools to disciple someone, so that they can go on to disciple someone else. Each session will contain a model to build your thinking around, as well as plenty of space for questions and discussion. Each session costs just £10 or sign up for all three for £25.  Click below to learn more about our Expand Training Experiences


Charlie Morris

Charlie helps much of the behind the scenes work happen smoothly. He heads up our Operations, Recruitment and Donor Support Teams. He first started as a volunteer youth leader back in 1988, and has worked in churches and Christian youth organisations in Australia, England and Scotland.

Categories: Expand Discipleship Training

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