Hey church family! Last Monday, we talked about what a student connect group is and what it is not. This is all apart of my four part blog series on student connect groups. I wanted to write this series not only because our groups are growing so fast, but also because we have a great and massive need for more leaders and more hosts.
This Monday I wanted to share some of the best tips for making a connect group effective. But first, some definitions:
Host: The one who opens the door to the home where the group meets. The host is in charge of coordinating a hosting schedule with other hosts and sharing that information, however often the group meets, with everyone in the group. This is usually a simple text saying “we are meeting tomorrow night at this place and at this time. Also, pick up is at this time.” Vacuum if you want, but you would be amazed how comfortable our kids can get, regardless of the setting. You don’t lead a discussion, you merely set the stage.
Leader: You are the heart and soul of student connect groups. You lead a discussion, sure, but you also shepherd the group through fun time and onto the big work of growing spiritually. You communicate with Elevate staff and make sure they know what is missing and what is needed for your group: curriculum, guidance, covenant help, etc..You might be a high school student leading with another high school student. Maybe you’re a mom or a dad or just a church member who wants to make a huge impact on the students of this church.
Now that we have those definitions out of the way, let’s work through some of the best practices we have found for our student connect group.
This looks different for each group. For our middle school guys, this is comfortable chairs and enough space to play games every week. A warm space for middle school girls looks like candles and soft music. Even more important than the physical setting of the groups, is the air of welcome our host can offer. Meeting and getting to know parents as they drop off, supporting hosts, and voicing needs to Elevate staff is all ways hosts can make a warm space. Having clear and consistent communication about when and where groups are meeting is a great way to make sure people feel like they belong to these students connect groups.
Leaders make warm spaces by being prepared to lead: whether that’s by writing curriculum well ahead of the time together or remembering prayer requests week to week. Leaders have a unique opportunity to make students feel like their connect group is a family by including everyone in the space.
There may come a time when your connect group has people in it who you do not know.
In fact, your group is not effective if your group doesn’t have a few students you never met before. That is because our groups need to be open circles, constantly welcoming people to join.
Now, a special caveat: eventually, our groups close. At 12 consistent students, our group must split and start another group. This is harsh and it will not be popular when it happens. But here’s the thing: these groups exist to grow and create more groups. If these groups were just social, then they would just continue to balloon. But these groups were made, first and foremost for spiritual growth. Splitting groups allows people space to join, without leaving space for students to disappear into a crowd. It allows new leaders and new hosts to step in.
So we provide open circles, over and over again.
I cannot overstate the importance of food. We have had many test connect groups here at church and there is one common denominator with the most successful groups: food. This food can be provided by the host and can be homemade or storebought. One of the many wonderful advantages about working with students is that their palette is not incredibly developed. Make something with love, and it doesn’t matter if it is an old family recipe or frozen taquitos.
Ultimately, groups succeed when they are prayed over and cared about. Join us in prayer if you host or lead a group and partner with us in caring after these groups. In my next post, I can’t wait to tell you about the exciting future for student connect groups.
-Michael LeBlanc, Director of Student Ministry