Students need opportunities for spiritual development, mission and community. Though some of this can happen sitting in rows, listening to leaders, much of this action happens in circles.
We must give students time to talk and process. They need to be able to ask questions with leaders and peers. And they need to hear from each other. It’s why small groups are so important in student ministry.
For some student ministries, every meeting is a small group. In fact, these smaller sizes student ministries may have more opportunities for connections and growth that come from sitting in a circle!
For student ministries that are larger, it takes some intentional effort to get your students into meaningful circle conversations and growth.
Here are some quick ideas for getting students into circles:
Break into groups to discuss the evening topic
During or after a talk at your next student ministry time invite the students to turn and share with two or three others for a few moments. You can count off to break up or just let it happen organically. You can also put a couple questions up on the screen, print out questions or just text the question to your leaders. These don’t have to be huge, deep questions, but can even be icebreakers to open a topic.
Divide into small groups for the semester
Creating some small groups for the semester can be a way to add consistency each week. These can happen aside from the weekly gathering or during. You can break groups up in a way that makes the most sense. Some examples may include middle / high school, or maybe by grade depending on the number of students and leaders, by school attendance or by gender. Having leaders for each group is a key a may determine how small you can break off.
Get in a circle to debrief a mission or ministry event
Did you just finish a mission project or special event? Stand in a circle to debrief it. Go around the circle to ask what students have learned or where they experienced God. Set an expectation that every student will share something during this small debriefing time.
Sit in circles for Bible study
This may already happen, but if at all possible, during small group Bible study, sit in a circle. It opens the format for discussion and learning and helps create community. Most all curriculum has resources for small group questions and activities. Utilize it and feel free to change it to match your context and style.
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Utilize older students to lead circle times
When I was a freshman in High School I met with a group of freshmen guys every Wednesday evening for dinner and Bible Study. The group was led by a senior in high school. There were 7-8 of us in the group and that season had a big impact on me and my faith!
Sitting in circles during meal times
If at all possible, set up meal times so that you have groups sitting in circles. Each Wednesday evening, we set up round tables for our student ministry time and it’s a very natural way for students to stay connected and start, even in a small way, interacting and growing in community together. Food times can be an important part of ministry – utilize it to help enhance your goals.
Prayer circles at the close of your gathering
There are a variety of ways to end a meeting in prayer. You can invite the whole group to make a circle, you can make smaller circles and still pray from the front or you can create smaller circles and have each circle pray together.
What do you think? What do you see?
Here are two great questions to get people sharing in a circle. “What do you think?” helps some people talk, but asking “What do you see?” helps others share their thoughts more easily.
Leaders prayer circle
The leadership of your group should model being together in circles at times – for prayer, for study, for growth and accountability.
You may already be doing many of these things. But it’s a good reminder for student ministry leaders. They need to hear God’s word shared and presented as they listen, but they also can really benefit from connecting in conversation and community around it. Find ways to work circles in more.
A big shout out our youth pastor Kurt Stone who works wonders with circle times in the student ministry! Though we have a great teaching and worship time, he models these prayer circles, debriefing circles, small group circles and many other ways well! Thanks Kurt! (pictured here with a circle cookie at Fire-Up!)
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