Missional Youth Ministry Small Groups

Youth Discipleship


Missional Youth Ministry Starts Outside Sunday Mornings

Most people think of youth ministry starting on Sunday mornings when students come for Sunday school or Bible study. However, the small group time with teenagers should be the culmination of a week of preparation, aiming not just to teach the Bible but to reach the hearts of the students in your group. This outward approach to youth ministry doesn’t wait for students to show up to church events. The reason we keep our groups small (ideally 5-8 students per adult) is not for crowd control during Sunday School. We keep groups at a manageable size so we can keep track of them during the week. How many students miss a few weeks in a row without anyone noticing? When a “small” group gets beyond 10-15 kids, it makes it very difficult for the leader to make sure they are ministering to the needs of the individual students. If we are singularly focused on Sunday mornings being our main responsibility, we fail to see the students in our group as real people with real struggles who need a real God to save them.

Missional Youth Ministry Is Ministry to the Whole Family

Meeting the individual needs of students means discovering what is important to the teenagers in our group and encouraging them both physically and metaphorically. This includes attending choir or band concerts, football games, gymnastic meets and tennis tournaments, just to name a few. This may mean spending an entire evening at a wrestling meet only to watch a student get pinned 6 seconds into their match (true story). Not only does this type of support mean something to the teenager, but it may also be incredibly valuable to their parents. These events tend to provide the best opportunities to interact with parents. Living an outward approach to ministry means embracing the needs of the whole family. What if at the beginning of every school year, parents from your church received a message saying something like this, “Hey ____, just wanted to let you know I am excited about _____ being a part of our small group this year. Here is my contact information in case you need me for any reason. I am on your side, and I think you’re doing a great job in parenting ______.” One of my mentors, Wayne McAfee, told me, “Never miss an opportunity to tell parents they have a great son or daughter.”

Missional Youth Ministry Helps Teenagers Live Outward

We have a responsibility to lead the students in our small groups towards living a missional life. I frequently hear that as a youth minister, I get to be around the church of tomorrow. At Conclave NextGen 22, my friend Shane Pruitt said, “Teenagers are not the future of the church. They ARE the church right now.” As youth leaders, we are charged with mobilizing the church—teenagers—to recognize God’s calling on their lives right now. When you, as a youth leader, live a missional life, you are living a life of example to the teenagers in your group. One reason it came naturally for me to attend extracurricular events as a youth minister was the fact that my youth leaders attended my events when I was a teenager. You have the opportunity to challenge them to serve alongside you in ministry, whether that means giving them a portion of the Bible study lesson to teach or training them how to effectively share their faith so they can pass it on to others.

There are many ministry roles in the church where you can show up on a Sunday morning, pick up your name tag and report to your post. These roles are necessary and highly valued to ensure our churches run efficiently. Youth Ministry is NOT one of these roles. Youth Ministry is an outward-focused ministry that challenges teenagers to live missional lives.

by Cory Liebrum, Youth and Family Ministry Specialist, Texas Baptists on July 10, 2024