By Kevin Ragsdale
As we crank up our high school program every Sunday afternoon, it is obvious to me how important small group leaders are to our ministry. I can recover from a bad sketch. I can get past worship leaders who forget their lyrics. I can even survive a communicator who doesn’t exactly hit the mark. But I know I am in big trouble if a small group leader does not show up to invest in the students. These leaders play a key role in our ministry, and it’s important to help them help our students grow spiritually.
When it comes to equipping our leaders, I find myself reminding them (and myself) to turn the conversation to spiritual things. Yes, it is extremely important to spend a lot of time connecting relationally and finding out what is going on in students’ lives, but at some point you need to talk about the principle or truth that was presented by the communicator. Students expect you to turn the conversation to spiritual things while at church. The thing that will make this transition more natural is the relationship that you’ve built by meeting together week after week.
I often use a question to make the transition into application time. “What did you hear the communicator say tonight?” and “What was he/she talking about?” are easy ways to engage the students in conversations that turn to spiritual matters.
In asking these questions every week, I set up the expectation for my students to listen to the communicator because they know I will ask about the message.
Knowing who my guys are and what they deal with every day also helps me make this transition more smoothly. This allows me to bring the truth or principle of the lesson into their worlds. I rarely utilize all the questions provided in the small group dialog because I realize the questions are not a checklist for me to complete. I personalize them based on my guys and where they are spiritually, relationally, and emotionally. I ask them questions like,
“How does this concept/truth/principle apply to your life?”
“What does this look like in your world?”
“How will you apply this tomorrow at home, school, practice, etc.?”
Finally, before all of this can happen, I have to internalize the truth myself before I can pass it on. By studying the outline and questions before our meeting time, I can think about how this applies not only to each guy in my group, but also in my own life. This allows me to be more intentional about praying specifically for the group time, and it helps me make the application very personal and on-target for each individual in the group.