8 years ago when I began working as a youth pastor full-time, I never would have guessed that I would be so passionate about small groups. In fact, I was almost passionately against small groups. Not that I thought they were bad, I was just more into the big program. Well, God takes Sauls and turns them into Pauls, and that’s what he did with me in terms of small groups. My first senior pastor will remember almost literally having to beg me to put my time and energy into small groups. I didn’t grow up in small groups – although looking back I do remember a few months at one point when I was in junior high that I did go to a couple of youth leaders’ houses which I now know were small groups. I never really participated in a small group as an adult, although we did go to a couple of homes on a couple of occasions for ministry time. I was simply not very interested. I didn’t understand the power of what can happen when people truly go life-on-life. All that has changed. Today, small groups are a mountain I am willing to die on.
Four years ago when I was interviewing for my current position, I told those interviewing me that small groups were the direction I was planning on going, and that within two years we would launch them. And we did. It was exciting. We went through that initial surge, the dip, and then leveled off with around 45-55% of our regular kids connected in a small group. This spring I decided to try something new. I wanted to do a sex series, but I wanted to use our small group infrastructure to do it. So, I took a risk. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I knew that I had to put my money where my mouth was and prove in my actions that I believe that small groups are the way to go. I actually asked kids to register and pay to be in a small group to talk about the most taboo subject in our culture. The first Sunday we had a fairly decent response, and I was mildly optimistic. The next two weeks, however, I was blindsided, and so many kids signed up. Yesterday I registered even more, using up the last workbooks we had, to the point that I even had to turn several students away, because we simply did not have room or workbooks for them. Unfortunate, but wow! What an incredible win for us! During this series, we have almost 80% of our students in a small group! We have 8 groups, but one group is too large, so next week I am planning on multiplying it and starting another group, so we’ll have 9. Glory to God! Last night I traveled to five of them, quickly saying hi, dropping off a bag of chips, and taking a group pic. Next week I’ll hit the others and post the pics.