Hey church family! Last week we talked about why connect groups make sense for our students. If you’re anything like I am and if your church history is close to mine, connect groups are a new idea for you. For me, it was a Bible study. For my parents, it was Sunday School-so what is different about Student Connect Groups?
Change is at the heart
Too often, we can begin to view our groups as chances to hang out or to get our kids out of the house. What is absolutely vital about these groups is that personal life and faith change always remains at the heart of what we do. That means every single week will have a single focus: the growth of the heart of any student who is a part of the group.
This might look like deep and meaningful Bible study. It could also look like three weeks of meaningful study and one week of goofball games. It could even look like monthly service projects with study and prayer at the beginning and the end of student’s time together.
Spiritual growth looks different for everyone, but there needs to be growth for a group to be a student connect group. There are other groups that do socialize much better than we do, anyway.
Bible scholars need not apply
At the same time, these groups aren’t seminary classes. This is not where your kid will come to understand the meaning of Balaam’s donkey in a socio-political context for Renaissance-era Bolivia. These groups will be focused on the practical life application of God’s Word in their life. They will learn how to use scripture to help answer life’s deepest and hairiest questions.
They won’t memorize Leviticus (nor do they have to) but they will learn what Leviticus has to say about listening to our parents (that’s a big one). Stories about Jesus will come alive and gain meaning as they sit with their friends and mentors and talk about their struggles. A very old book will be made relevant as they share honestly and openly about how school is hard, dating is confusing, and the thought of college is scary.
Confession: as your youth director, it would be so much easier to have these groups meet at the church. The church never goes on vacation, I can reserve room months in advance, and there is a legitimate basketball court here. I can put up signs and know exactly what each kid will get out of the experience.
So why do connect groups have to meet at homes?
Because Mrs. Webb made the best cookies around.
When I was in high school, we had a small group that met in Mrs. Webb’s house. I didn’t know Mrs. Webb at all, and I had never said more than two words to her. But when the small group met in her house, I spent time in her living room, growing in faith, and eating far too many chocolate chip cookies. I also learned that other adults in my church cared about my faith formation. I felt safe, I felt loved, and most importantly, I felt like the church was a true community because of Mrs. Webb’s hospitality. So when I got to college and felt homesick or adrift, my mind naturally went to church as a safe home base. In a time when more and more of our students are graduating from faith when they graduate from high school (never to return, statistics show) we need to leverage every chance we have to show our kids that church means home.
And also, as a host, our people get to grow in their faith as well: a fringe benefit for sure!
So as we explore what student connect groups are and understand what they are not, let us grow in courage and find our call to lead or host a group. We have students who are dying to grow in their faith and cannot wait for our invitation to grow. Don’t know how to host or lead a group? No fear– check out my next blog for how to make this happen.
-Michael LeBlanc, Director of Student Ministry