What you are doing is a big deal—you will have to wear many different hats. Here are a few of the ones you will need to wear:
You are …
1. A spiritual leader
Your students are listening to your faith and watching your life. They are counting on you having a genuine (not perfect) walk with Jesus. Always know that your faith is lived out loud by your actions and not just your words. Even when you slip up, you show spiritual leadership in the way you humbly and correctly deal with mistakes and strive for God’s best.
2. A pastor/shepherd
Your students are counting on you to notice when they’re gone. They expect you to call them out (in love) when they miss the mark on God’s standards and their intended commitments. They are waiting for that personal challenge. You are essentially a pastor in this small group movement that God has been using to develop Christ-followers since the early church. You get to lead students into this deep-level relational and spiritual journey. Some days this will be seen as a wild stroke of good fortune; other days it will be an inescapable weighty albatross of death.
3. Part of the youth ministry team
Your leadership can greatly help or cause crippling hurt to the student ministry of your church. Be a team player and remember that you are part of the whole. Your small group isn’t a separate youth group, it’s just one part of the overall strategy within a youth ministry.
4. An administrative wizard
Just kidding. Just wanted to see if you’re still paying attention. Although it wouldn’t hurt if you could remember where your Bible is, how to send an e-mail or text, and what time your group meets. Leave all the administrative details to the person in charge.
5. A teacher
Your students are counting on you to open God’s Word and help them learn how to discover and live by God’s plan. You don’t need to have a doctorate in theology, be a stand-up comic, or have a Shakespearian stage presence. Your heart for God and your relationship with him will shine through your teaching.
For it to shine through, you’ve got to have the light shining brightly within you. More on that later.
6. A relational guide
The small group is all about community. You are the facilitator of those connections and relationships. Students come to group carrying a variety of emotional baggage (dejection, rejection, insecurity) and high on life (life happened to go well that day, closeness with God, eager to grow in their faith). Caring for a group of students who bring such a wide variety of circumstances with them will require your flexibility, sensitivity, and wisdom. After all, how do we rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn simultaneously? Experience will bring the answer.
Hang in there!
Students are listening with their ears and watching with their eyes. Small group leaders teach and model God’s ways.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Joshua Griffin and Doug Fields, 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders: Tips for Rookies & Veterans on Leading Youth Ministry Small Groups, ed. Matt McGill (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2010), 9–11.