Small group ministry invites youth into a relational and spiritual focus in the context of your congregation. It can serve youth as an invitation to and preparation for broader, long-term congregational connection and involvement. Small group ministry can provide opportunities for multigenerational interaction.
If your congregation already offers small group ministry for adults, extend opportunities for leadership development to the youth leaders. In some congregations, small group ministry facilitators meet regularly with the minister or coordinator as their own small group. Consider including one or more designated youth.
Another option would be to launch a multigenerational small group ministry program. Each multigenerational group ought to include more than one person from each age group represented. This allows all group participants to authentically participate as themselves, rather than as representatives of an age group.
Youth can initiate a multigenerational approach. The youth might expand membership in a small group, inviting people from multiple, other age groups. Or, they might host a special offering, perhaps several times a year. Planning includes:
- Making sure people of all ages are coming
- Establishing groups of not more than eight to ten, including facilitators
- Providing a standard covenant for all groups
- Designating co-facilitators from different age groups.
All groups could use the same workshop topic. Or, present several topic options and invite people to indicate their preferences. Then, allow topic preference to be a factor in arranging the groups, while keeping age diversity the priority. If only youth or adults choose a particular topic, delete it from the options.
A small group ministry model might also successfully be used in an interfaith youth group. The emphasis on the experiences of the individual could be a useful tool to break down barriers.
Whichever way you decide to involve youth with small group ministry, make the program visible to the congregation as a whole. Use your congregational newsletter/website, reports to congregational leadership about youth programming, and/or a worship service coordinated by the small group to publicize your youth small group ministry program. As the congregation learns what the youth are doing, be ready to explore a small group ministry program for other populations such as children, young adults, congregational leaders, and older adults.
There are many ways to use a small group ministry model with you. Be creative, dream big dreams, and continue to share the journey.
Resources for Initiating Small Group Ministry with Youth
The website of the Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network provides extensive information and links to resources. Also find resources on Helen Zidowecki's website, Backyard to the Universe: Small Group Ministries, the book Small Group Ministry for Youth by Helen Zidowecki (UU Small Group Ministry Network, 2005), and in other sources cited in the Bibiliography.