Leadership Tools 10- Small Groups and Break Outs

The majority of churches…which have broken growth barrier after growth barrier are churches which have stressed home cell groups. –C. Peter Wagner

Great small groups celebrate success, suffer with one another, and expect God to do more than they can do themselves. – Rick Howerton

We all know that small groups have played a vital role in the history of the church. Jesus had a small group of followers around him whom he shared intimately with.  Most of the churches in the New Testament were "small" in comparison to size of our churches today.  For the most part they were house churches and houses back then were waaaaaay smaller than they are today.  From the time of Christ to today, these values have changed countless lives and helped the church to grow and reach thousands while at the same time give the closeness of a well knitted community. Small groups create an intimate space within the larger body of church.  As the church grows larger it can also grow smaller and thats exactly the purpose of small groups.  

Cell ministry is not “another program”; it’s the very heart of the church. –Joel Comiskey

Small groups are designed with a purpose. Small Groups intentionally are designed to include all aspects of UP, IN, and OUT. They are designed to be a place where youth can grow in their faith, develop as a community, and then learn to live it out in service and through sharing the word of God. They empower, invite, and challenge youth!
After 25 years of leading small groups and coaching small group leaders, I have come to one clear conviction: prayer is the most important activity of the small group leader. – Dave Earley

The UP is the first and foremost reason we gather, we come together to glorify God.  We experience God together in worship, teaching, and our response. We pause together in moments of reflection, soaking in God’s presence, and making decisions that change our lives.

Your desire to change your small group can’t be greater than your desire to change within. –Andrew Mason

The IN is how we demonstrate the love of God for one another. We enjoy recreation and fun times together.  We grow together in church group time and huddles. And we hang out outside of Homegroups to engage in celebrating life together.

The ‘best small group leader ever’ formed a small team that would eventually change the world. –Michael C. Mack

The OUT is how we live out God's love in the world through service, outreach, and evangelism.  We do service projects and share God’s word as an intentional way of living out what we’re learning together.

Small groups are simple yet incorporate so much.  They represent the church, the body of Christ, and who God calls us to be.  Small groups have changed the world, but they are not perfect.  If small groups lack purpose they fall apart and they can do more harm then good.  

The resources below give some more insight into small groups and the reasoning behind why do them the way we do.  

Leadership Tools 9- Managing Confidentiality

Are you barking up the wrong tree?!?

Working with teens is a tricky thing.  You want to earn their trust, but there is a fine line between earning their trust and forgetting that your primary responsibility is to keep them safe.  And yes sometimes keeping them safe means breaking confidentiality.  After 14 years in ministry I know that at times it can be trick and that each situation is needs to be handled differently, but there are some basic guidelines to help us navigate these tricky times.

"So I've been smoking with some friends lately." James tone seemed to indicated that he wasn't talking about cigarettes.

"You mean you were smoking pot?"
Then a pause. "Wait, are you going to tell my parents, come on I trust you, your not going to tell my parents are you?"

How might you respond to a question like that?...
Do we tell the parents right away... Do we work with the student in hopes they will tell their parents?... Do we find some medium? Wait I know we pass it off to the pastor and walk away right!?! ...

We all know that as youth workers, we aren't to take the place of parents, but to help them raise their children. We are to partner with parents but also advocates of youth.  Would I want to know if my kids were smoking pot or drinking? Of course, but what role does confidentiality play? Are we bound by legality or morality to break confidence in a situation like this?

After being in ministry for so long, it may just be me getting older, but it does seem like even the good or church kids these days are finding it harder and harder to stay away from temptation. It is not in our benefit or the benefit of the students for us to tell about everything that we hear, word will get around quickly that "you can't open up to the youth pastor—he'll just squeal." But if we sit on information about a student engaging in illegal or dangerous activity, something worse could happen.

Pastors are legally protected in ways that even licensed therapists are not. Your state may have different laws, but generally speaking, the courts encourage parishioners to be open with their ministers. Of course, common sense tells you that if you know of or suspect abuse (emotional, physical, mental, sexual, neglect or any other kind) or the imminent threat of students doing injury to themselves or another, the proper authorities should be contacted immediately. Having said that, it's often hard to figure out what to do with the information students offer you that falls into a gray area.

The reality is that James isn't in any immediate danger by smoking pot a few times, but it's also clear that he's making neither a legal nor a healthy choice. And it's only a matter of time before this poor choice could lead to much more dangerous ones. And what about students cutting themselves, not to attempt suicide, but as a means of self-mutilation? Each crisis situation has its specific dos and don'ts; but generally speaking, what do we do with the information presented to us?

We need to establish trust and verify what is going on. Allow the student to confide in you but be upfront with them about what your obligated to share.  Don't hide the fact that in the case they reveal abuse, injury to themselves or another, or something illegal that you will have to report it.  Ask the student if you can do bring another adult into the conversation.  This will allow you to better support the individual and remind the youth you have the best interest at heart.  Let them choose the person whom can partner with you on helping such as a small group leader or other trusted adult.  Respect the youth, elevate them up, provide them with resources, and advocate on their behalf.  One can have a conversation with the parents without disclosing any information.  Asking about home life, school, friends, family and other things that may be causing the teen to act out.  All the while encourage the youth to share with their parents or other adults so that they have a bigger support network.  

A Tip is to share what your experiencing with the teen with another adult on anonymity.  You don't have to confide who it is, just ask for their feedback on the current situation.  That person can keep you accountable and remind you to follow up.  If it is something that requires reporting then do it so immediately and let the teen know you are required to do this for their protection and others.  Take them to your supervisor and share with them the situation.  

It's not easy... but hopefully this helps. Below is a document we give to all our leaders going into more detail about confidentiality.