The purpose of small groups

An edited verson of this post was recently featured in the quartelry magazine.  You should sign up for this free publication to find out all about the latest and greatest youth ministry resources from YM360.  

Say no to second sermon.

Last year I had the privilege of going to a national ministry conference to hear a world class communicator.  They did exactly what one would expect from a world class communicator at a big time conference.  They were powerful, articulate, and convicting.  As the communicator was wrapping up their talk, my mind was spinning and my heart was churning as I wrestled with my thoughts and with God as to where to go with what I had just heard.  

But before I could get too far down the road in processing this thing God was doing in me, the over stylized worship leader did, what I like to call, second sermon.  Obviously God did something big in this person’s heart as well, and used their opportunity with the mic to share their conviction.  This seems all well and good, but it actually derailed the thing that God was doing in me.  

Instead of letting the message stand alone, and allow space for me to reflect and the Holy Spirit to move and direct me, I had a tour guide do all the work for me.  And truthfully, I did not come to hear the worship leader’s perspective on this talk, I came to be challenged by this particular communicator.  

For as much as I hate when second sermon happens to me, as a youth worker, and specifically as a small group leader, I am afraid that the bulk of how I lead is using the most comfortable tool in the box for discussion, the second sermon.  

The purpose of small groups:

Without much reflection, I think that I think the purpose of small groups is to make sure the students have really heard what was just communicated in big church, during the youth talk, or through the curriculum.  Sure, there are questions to be asked, but through the awkward silence, poor theology, and obvious cases of completely missing the point, the true point of small groups is to help the communicator land the plane.  

I am guilty of this, every one of my small group leaders are guilty of this, and I know that you are guilty of this too.  We jump in and take over the conversation.  We think we are filling the silence, correcting theology, or passing on conviction, but I would like to push back a little bit, and argue that what we are truly doing is short circuiting the work of the Holy Spirit.

What would it look like if you saw the purpose of small groups as to help students not as the place to confirm the leader’s thoughts and convictions, but as the work space for students to truly process what the Holy Spirit is doing in them?

This means that we have to make space for awkward silence, poor theology, and complete misses when it comes to the desired outcome of the communicator.  

There is no space in our students’ lives where they can actually process the deeper issues and concerns of their life, especially in the context of their faith.  Small groups are a gift to them, and should be treated as such.  Hearing what is actually in their minds and hearts is a prized gift that nobody really gets access to.  And when we provide second sermon, we communicate that we really aren’t interested in this most precious gift.  

2 Quick take-a-ways:

Say no to second sermon

Actually ask questions that require answers when facilitating a small group.  For that is what you are, a facilitator, not the back up preacher.