Are you looking to engage youth in your bible study but don’t know how? Why do teens never seem to want to be involved in small groups? Many church leaders find themselves in the constant battle of “trying to look hip” to gain interest but fall short. According to a recent Barna study called State of Discipleship:
“Small groups… provide (an) excellent structure for accountability and encourage commitment to make time for discipleship.”
So how can we encourage teens to join in? Here are some small group ideas to engage the teens in your church and help them feel more welcome and interested.
“Authenticity” has been a big buzz word in recent years, but for good reason. A trap that so many of us fall into is trying to make ourselves seem more interesting than we are. Rather than helping, this approach comes across as fake and as something to be avoided.
To help engage the youth in your bible study try getting out into the community and serving with your small group. Doing an activity with your group helps them engage better with one another and promotes authenticity. Maybe switching up activities every once in a while will give them the variety they need to stay focused. Build your community by living life together.
Also, learn to listen to the teens in your group. Youth want to be heard and feel like you understand them. Listen to what they have to say and ask questions to help them feel respected and like they are valued.
Invite them to the group personally.
For many teens, hearing about a small group every week from the pulpit can seem a little preachy. If they don’t feel like they are personally invited or wanted they will simply ignore the invitation and assume it’s for someone else. By that point, it’s just another thing that they are being advertised to about. In order for them to feel like they are welcomed, more personal steps need to be taken.
Try creating a Facebook group or StudyChurch group for each of your small groups and inviting them from there. Or send them a text message inviting them to come to the next meeting. Let them know that you look forward to seeing them there and that they are welcome. Teach your small group leaders to look out for those who are left out. Then give them the responsibility to reach out to them. Meeting teens where they are at helps them feel involved and accepted.
Change the meeting time.
One of the most common excuses to not come to a small group is “I don’t have the time”. With all of the stress from school, sports, and other life commitments teens tend to feel bogged down with way too much to do. And who could blame them! “Millennials’ assertion that busyness is a significant barrier may be due to broader factors such as a pervasive sense of bombardment by technology and social media.” -Barna study
Changing up the rotation of how often you meet can go a long way for teens to feel like they can come. Ask them what works best for them. Then give them the choice of coming to a group that works for them. Maybe one that meets every week, every two weeks, or every month.
Some churches opt for low necessity small groups. These are small groups that meet for a few weeks and do not require attendance. For young adults, this may be just what they need to feel like they are able to give over that time. Remember that if you have to cancel your meeting once because of too many no shows, make sure to start up again the next week.
Meet where they feel comfortable.
Think back to the first time that you were ever a part of a bible study or a small group. Did you feel out of place wondering what was going on? Were you nervous about who you were meeting with and where? For many teens, this is the deciding factor that makes not coming to a small group so much easier. Coming to a random person’s house to talk about personal issues just doesn’t seem like a great way to spend a Wednesday night.
We can help take away some of that stress by meeting in different places depending on the growth of the group. If the members already know each other and seem comfortable meeting at a house each week won’t be bad. For a group that is just starting out, maybe meeting at the church, or a coffee shop to start with would be best.
Everyone feels the need to be heard and understood, and teens are no exception. Use your small groups as a safe place where everyone has a spot and a voice. For more information on this subject check out our blog post on Make Your Small Group Less Scary: 7 Tricks to Try Now.
What would you do to help youth come to bible study? Comment below with your ideas.