Tips & Tricks
Support for a Small Generation
-Gordon & Becki West
Juniors are known for flocking to crowds like those that “hang” at the malls. But they also long to belong to a core network of caring people who know, understand and accept them. Such support is also vital to their development.* The junior child needs relationships and healthy small groups are key to meeting this need.
Create a Family Environment
While many juniors come from families that are in turmoil, small groups in the church can provide students with the loving, safe environment they are desperately seeking. Be there for the members of your group!
- Attend events that are important to them: awards ceremonies, sporting events and music recitals.
- Talk with them personally: call them at home, arrive before they do and greet them as they arrive. Correspond with them via e-mail.
- Invite several of your students to spend time with you doing what you do: invite them to your home to help with yard work, pick them up to run errands with you or incorporate them into your family night out.
Spending time together helps build friendships and trust, giving the opportunity to speak to juniors in ways that they will hear and grow spiritually.
One of our most effective discipleship relationships started by asking David, a junior in our small group years ago, to accompany us to out-of-town churches where we presented workshops. He was great company and very helpful in setting up displays and handing out papers. But the key to this strategy was that we had hours together sitting in a car with nothing to do but talk! Years later this junior still teases Gordon about how much Diet Coke he can drink on long drives without stopping!
When we are real and transparent with our juniors we build a security that allows a relationship to blossom.
Encourage Life-Changing Education
A favorite Dennis the Menace cartoon of ours reads, “I am too listenin’. I just listen better when you’re saying something nice about me.” That’s true of all of us. When the speaker is someone we know, like and trust we listen! When juniors get to know and trust their small-group leader, when they have experienced love from him, they are much more likely to allow him to point out areas where they need to apply biblical truths.
Similar power comes from the friendships built in your small group between the junior and his peers. Although parents and other adults still have a significant influence in the lives of our students, juniors are at an age where their peers are beginning to impact their choices and beliefs. In small groups juniors can be guided into healthy peer relationships that will support their Christian beliefs.
Provide an Environment for Sharing the Gospel
Many of us can think back to the time we became Christians and remember a brother or sister, mom or dad, who shared the Gospel with us. The family is the ultimate small group. For those who don’t hear the Gospel in a family setting the junior’s small group is essential.
Your ministry may go unnoticed by most other adults. But remember that every time you give up an evening to spend time with your juniors, every time you buy your small group member yet another soda and fries and every time you talk with your kids at church instead of your best friend, you are showing Christ to those kids. Just as Christ laid down His life for a world full of sinners, the junior’s small group leader will win the lost child by making sacrifices for him!
*Anthony W. Jackson and David W. Hornbeck, “Educating Young Adolescents: Why We Must Restructure Middle Grade Schools,” American Psychologist (May 1989).
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