Ask The Source

How do I lead one teenager in our youth group until we bring in more?

I am starting a youth group from scratch at a new church. At present we have 1 teenager who attends church. Do you have any suggestions how to lead one teenager until we bring in more? I have led a group in the past that started with 5 then grew to more than 70, but I am not sure what to do with one.

Stacey, Lake Worth, FL


Dear Stacey,

On one hand, it's a bit of ministry culture shock to go from 70 to 1, and you're wise to recognize the fact that there's a difference in your approach. On the other, what a great opportunity to hone your discipleship mentality, skills, and future Discipleship model to train future youth volunteers.

I'm not sure whether this student is your same gender, already a follower of Jesus or not, but I encourage you to maximize mentoring in their life (and enjoy the time you have without the stress of leading a big group – even if it's just for a few weeks or months)! If this student is same-sex, meet with them weekly or every other week, one-on-one for a pop or coffee, using specific pre-selected material to help them grow in their walk with God. Preset the time you'll meet, with 15-20 minutes catching up on their school and family life, then about 30 minutes going through the discipleship material, asking great questions (both humorous and thought-provoking) about Jesus and what life is like in God's kingdom, related to the specific discipleship focus you're looking at that week. Depending on your relationship with them, you could spend a final 10-20 minutes praying with them, and asking deeper questions, if they're comfortable, about what they might be dealing with personally.

If this student is the opposite gender, you can still disciple them through email, attaching (or cutting and pasting) questions if they aren't included in the material/book you've provided for them, then connect with them before or after church to talk face to face for 10 minutes or so about what you gave them to read and pray about the previous week.

There are loads of great discipleship books at Bible Bookstores, but if you're needing something right now – especially for a new or not-so-grounded believer, accessible from the top of our home page under FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS, click on CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS, then scroll to the last title and look at Jonathan's DISCIPLESHIP GUIDE. As with nearly everything on or site, it's free to download. I suggest making a copy for you and one for your teen.

Then scroll back up to the top to ARTICLES & HOW TOÕS and check out our I NEED TO KNOW HOW TO page. There are great, practical tips in the second article, ÒQUESTION: HOW DO I REALLY IMPACT KIDS? ANSWER: ONE KID AT A TIME!” and fourth article, ÓHOW DO I MAKE MY YOUTH GROUP GROW?Ó

Or, if you want some more reading on the subject, check out JonathanÕs book Getting Students to Show Up.

As you continue discipling this one student, and earn their trust and respect, ask them if they would like to invite a couple of their friends to go bowling, arcading, swimming, or some other activity with you, with their parents' permission. Continue to invest in their lives and friendships, and once you're meeting with three or more students, you have a small group! Then you can treat it like just that – a Small Group Bible study. Choose the evening that works best for these students and their parents to meet at one of their homes (preferably, because then their parents make an investment and the kids are more accountable, taking ownership of the group), or yours. Feel free to use any of our curriculums on our CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS page. We also provide small group questions on most of the pieces of curriculum on our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page. Tweak the agendas to fit your growing group and your communication style.

Stacey, I hope these ideas help. Thanks again for emailing us and even more for stepping up to invest in your students! Your email reminds me of a great saying I once read from a youth pastor: “Don't grow big groups, grow big people.” God loves that lone student in your church and loves you for caring about them!

Same team,

Danette Matty, Resource Correspondent
The Source for Youth Ministry


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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