5 advantages of a small youth group

Advantages of a small youth groupWhy is it that the big churches try so hard to be like the small churches, while the small churches try to hard to be like the big churches? The large churches start small groups and try to be communal; the small churches try to have big programs and lots of flash.

It’s like they’re all teenage girls or something! The girls with straight hair spend hours curling it, and the girls with curly hair spend hours straightening it. If only they could all swap scalps, maybe then they’d be content what what they have.

Whether you’re in a small church, a mid-size church, or a large church, there are unique challenges and opportunities in each. The grass is not always greener on the other side no matter where you are.

If you’re in a small youth group, rather than trying to become like a large youth group, here are 5 advantages you have. Learn to capitalize on these.

1. A sense of community. Everyone knows each other’s names, each other’s families, parents, interests, personalities, etc. When someone is missing from a youth group meeting, others notice and can follow-up without having to check an impersonal attendance sheet.

2. Easier to focus. You can’t do everything and you know it. A smaller group often makes it easier to focus on doing one or two things really well and allowing the lesser important things to fall away.

3. Welcoming to outsiders. It’s easier to notice when a visitor shows up at a youth group meeting. That newcomer can quickly feel accepted and loved by the entire group.

4. Easy to stay in touch. You can say, “Good morning!” to every kid in your youth group just by sending a single text message with multiple recipients.

5. Be in-tune with their lives. You can know the needs, struggles, hopes, dreams and failures of every kid. This allows you to be very specific in what you teach and how you teach it at youth group meetings.

Question: What other advantages does a small youth group have? Share your thoughts in the comments section below this post.

Read: “5 advantages of a large youth group

Posted on June 17, 2010

  • Great post, Tim. I would add that it might be easier to put in place some processes (as much as we can call it a process) of discipleship with a smaller group . . . Fewer students may mean the ability to teach in a way that "brings along" a larger percentage of the group on the journey.

    We posted a similar post here last week of a youth worker sharing his memories of growing up in a small youth group, and how influential it was on his life:

    Thanks for the post, Tim.

    • Yeah, but I'm not so sure the process is easier in a smaller setting as much as it is easier to keep track and follow-up with fewer students along the process, ya know? The process can be pretty sticky either way.

  • Very true . . . And I resist even calling it a process. I know it's a semantics, but when i think process, it seems so regimented, so linear. My experience with discipleship has been that process is rarely linear . . . (The disciples "process" was anything but linear . . . lot's of circling back to pick up stragglers.) If there is a process at all, maybe it's merely a guide for the leader to use as a plumbline to measure progress.

    Yeah . . . Easier to track in smaller groups, not necessarily easier. Good point.

  • Jamie Stolp

    Tim, what do you see as reasons why the church is always try to be something other then what it is?

    My days of struggling with 'wanting something else' really had to do with me not being OK with who I was at the time. The ministry was the deflection and reflection.

    • I think because we're always comparing ourselves with other ministries to evaluate how we measure up. And we tend to notice our weaknesses more than our strengths.

  • jay

    Small groups are more portable. As such, you can get real creative in the activities you do. It doesn't take a lot of time to set up logistics that would need to be done to accommodate a large group.

  • I'd say one of the best benefits I've experienced is helping the students take ownership of the ministry. They help make decisions and understand the process of programming and really feel that youth group belongs to them and is something good they get to pass on to younger students. It's cool to see their ideas and be able to help them implement them, not just ask for ideas and then lead from the front, you know?

  • I liked the post. A question I had is what would people consider the difference is between a Small and Large group. I'm trying to figure out where my group fits in your posts.

    • I thought about that when I first wrote this post and decided not to try to define what a small youth group is vs a large youth group. It's probably better if people make that decision themselves. We can all find groups that are smaller than us and larger than us.

  • I don't think the post is meant to sound antagonistic at the beginning or sensational but it comes off making leaders sound mindless and desperate on all sides. Could it be that all churches value influence and relationships because they want to see the Gospel spread? The small church, large church, and even medium church is looking for ways to connect their people, resources, and opportunities in ways that are authentic and effective. I have led in the upstart church plant, multi-site mega church, and middle sized ministry everybody wants the same thing… life change. the people are the same in every one of them. If every church had it's own planet and never saw each other I think an outside interplanetary traveler would see similarities that we would all gravitate toward; being known, being loved, being cared for, and equipped. Community, focus, connection, and awareness are everyone's tools. There is no exclusivity on the obvious things that work. The church is the church and the compartmentalization, categorizing, and turf war mentality is nauseating. A better way of pushing on people would come by teaching them how to seek God's direction for the people he has placed in their path. Knowing where they are at in their culture and understanding what their next step would be. The ways, means, and tools that would come in helping them see the step and want the step are just as important to grow in. If you're Philipi be Philipi but don't be mad at Colosse for being Colosse.

    • I agree that most people probably want to see the same thing, life change, regardless of their ministry context, but in my experience people tend to focus more on what other churches in their community are doing than on life change. It sounds like your church is different, which is awesome! But as soon as people start to compare their church with other churches, they quickly feel like, "Wow, we can't attract kids or do what the big church is doing," ya know? It starts to feel like unfair competition to the smaller church and they become discontent and wish they could be like the larger church instead of being the church God wants them to be, with all the positive aspects that come with that.

  • #5 is where the rubber meets the road in my opinion. It seems to me that youth ministry, at its essence, is about discipleship. It's about relationships — connecting with young people where they're at, encouraging them in their gifts, and challenging them to grow in God. That's hard to do in a larger small group unless you have great, reliable volunteers (which are hard to find). I'd go for a smaller youth group any day of the week.

    Now, the question is: Does the same principle apply to churches, in general? Hmmm…

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  • Tim!

    Love your blog. GREAT stuff and solid content as always.

    You're such an encourager and this article is awesome for the smaller group. Most of the youth leaders we work with have less than 10 in their groups.

    Teen Life

  • Pastor Bill

    Okay, reviving the post :-)

    As noted, the term small is subjective. I've led a workshop for small Awana clubs and people attended with as few as a handful to almost 100. Each thinking they were small compared to another.

    Now specifics. I have a small youth group, literally, a handful (less than 10 – generally 6 or less). It is a young church plant (5 years old) and I have struggled getting the youth and some leaders to accept the small group as they are familiar with the "large" church youth group (for reference maybe 50'ish youth) and desire those programs and fellowship. Consequently, it is difficult to get that initial foundation started as people begin to seek that "larger group" and they don't see themselves as laying the ground work for those who will follow.

    Any ideas for how to cast this vision (besides prayer)?

    • Yeah, that can be difficult with people who are so focused on what they don't have instead of on what they do have. That spirit of discontentment is definitely not what Paul talked about when he said he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. It can affect how your leaders relate with kids, if you're not careful. It also makes them assume that large groups = more effective ministry, which is absolutely not true. It's probably best to start by talking with them about what effective ministry is and how you guys can do that. Jesus had only 12 people and a very small budget, but he spent life together with them. Any size group can do that.

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