I stumbled upon something recently that has really opened my eyes to the benefits of an alternative small group structure. As some of you who read this blog frequently know, I picked up a new group of 7th grade guys last year to lead in discipleship. Things are going great. It's awesome. Sometime in the summer, I was sharing with a good friend of mine some of the challenges I had in working with middle schoolers for the first time. You can read more about that here. As I shared, my buddy talked about how much he enjoyed that age group. (A lot of it is based off of an incredible discipleship experience he had when he was in middle school.) As we talked, a light bulb kind of went off in both our heads . . . "Why don't we take a stab at seeing what it would be like to co-lead this group?"To many of you this might not be a big revelation. But for me it is. I've been in youth ministry for about 13 years and this is my first experience having another adult co-lead a discipleship group with me. It has opened my eyes to some incredible benefits. Here are just a few . . .
Let's face it: our personalities make it easier for us to bond with some students, and more difficult with others. My co-leader and I are 100% on the same page as it comes to disciple making and we're good friends. But our personalities are different in some ways. And this is proving to be a huge benefit to our guys. It provides more diverse conversation and experiences, and it creates some different touch points for relationship to develop.
Having two leaders means that the logistics of running a group like this doesn't always fall on one person. I travel a fair amount. Last year we canceled at least 6 meetings because of my schedule. This year I have been out of town twice. And discipleship happened anyway. There is a long list of logistical advantages of having two small group leaders.
I've realized that I have some deficiencies I hadn't even really noticed. Having an extra set of eyes means seeing ways to grow and improve. Our overall small group experience is better because of my co-leader coming in and leading out according to his personality.
Whether we realize it or not, our view of life and faith is tempered by how our experiences have shaped us. When you have a "co-leader" model of leadership, you suddenly have the richness of two different sets of life experiences. My buddy and I approach things from different angles at times based on how we've been shaped by our stories. Again, the benefit for the students is huge.
Obviously, having co-leaders makes it so much easier to build meaningful relationships with students. Take last week for instance. We spent all day Saturday together as a group. We played football, basketball, video games . . . all the stuff you do with middle school guys. The cool thing? When I was playing basketball with a couple guys, my buddy was throwing the football with three more. Relationship multiplication!
Are there some considerations? I can think of a few . . .
- Personnel--Many youth pastors struggle to find one adult to lead a small group much less two.
- Flexibility--There has to be a commitment by the co-leaders to be flexible and open to each other's influence. Co-leading is a partnership.
- Humility--I have seen small group leaders over the years feed too much off the attention students give them. This is a bad quality to begin with, but there is especially no room for it in a co-leader model.
But, all in all, the experiment has been extremely beneficial to me and to our group.