I was reminded yet again this Sunday how well this transition away from the traditional model of “Sunday school” and even our previous approach at “Systematic Theology small groups” is working. Since we’ve gone to a model of pure small groups that discuss what God is teaching them through our Wednesday night student worship services, we’ve seen and heard about so much more growth out of their students. I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again…it has been HUGE for our students to not just have yet another teaching time. Bible teaching is crucial, but we’ve learned that giving our students an opportunity to discuss, have conversations, ask questions, and struggle through issues they are learning are crazy valuable!
For example, this Sunday I sat in the small group class of our junior and senior girls. I listened to how they were answering the discussions questions asked by their adult small group leaders. One by one they went around the circle answering questions like: Does God have just one perfect person picked out for you to marry? Or is there a type of person that you are to look for to marry? What is dating? Is it okay to date? What is the difference in dating and exclusive relationships? Should you date anyone who you wouldn’t be willing to marry?
Just being in that class gave me so much more insight into the questions being asked, the thoughts of our girls, and how I can better preach to what is really going on in their lives. Just listening to them in these small group formats is like another way to prepare for the next Wednesday. Sometimes youth pastors think of certain issues to cover, but listening to our students give us so much more real insight into their lives and how we can speak into them!
So youth pastors…listen to your students. Find ways to give them a real opportunity to talk and not just be talked to. Listen to their hearts, their lives, their thoughts, and their feelings. Don’t be so eager to put in your two cents…like I tend to be. But just listen to them and don’t rescue them too quickly. It will be a great help to address the real issues in their lives the next time you preach to them from God’s Word.