How to Have Great Small Groups – Summer Camp

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A youth director friend of mine is gearing up for Summer Camp for his middle school ministry.  He will have 10 groups that will each have 2 leaders.  His plan for this year is to equip his leaders more than they ever have been.  So, he invited me to come and share my “wisdom” with his leaders.  For the next 3 post, I will post  about how to have great small groups.  All three of them will have the same method but from different applications.  This one, yes I said one, method isn’t anything new or radical but it does change the dynamics of your group.  If those in your group will take hold of this concept your small group will not be small for long.  In fact, this method is the fastest way to form new groups from existing groups.  For this post, I will speak about small groups or family groups or cell groups or D-groups or whatever you call them at camp since that was what originally spurred me to write this post.

Yes, you have to have good leaders, this isn’t a magic pill you take that makes every small group great.  Good, trained leaders are always key in the life of small groups, but even the best trained small group leaders usually have times where it just feels like they are spinning their wheels.  Training leaders in this particular method will make those times disappear.  So what is the key to great small groups?  It doesn’t happen in the small group at all…

If you spend time outside of your small group investing into those in your small group you will have great groups.

So what does this look like at camp?

  • Make Small Special Moments

Not long after camp there isn’t much that students remember about camp except what made them feel special.  This is why small groups are so important, because they build relationships and relationships make people feel special.  So how do you build relationships quickly?  Make sure you are intentionally making those in our group feel special.  I mean have laser focus on making those in your group feel special toward you.  This could be as simple as a secret handshake, high five, a song you sing together, a word you both shout out or shout something back in response.  It takes a little time and work and at times some creativity, but that small thing is just between you and one or a few students makes them feel special.

  • Free Time

Every camp has free time, what as a leader are you doing with yours?  It’s time to invest, invest, invest!  I developed a twist to the saying, “people don’t care what you have to say until they know you care”, it’s for youth and has the same principle, but dives into who youth are.  “Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.”

Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.

Playing with students is the gateway into their world.  All kids want to play, that’s why sports, video games and bands are so popular, it’s kids playing.  Story after story of kids responding to others just because   Once was playing football with the stud linebacker in the ocean, as he caught the football I committed to the most insane tackle of my life.  I speared him as he caught the football so hard his feet left the ground and I knocked the breath out of him.  I was fully aware that I might be running for my life when he leaped out of the water, but instead he leaped out of the water and exclaimed, “That was awesome!  That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit!”  He became one of my biggest allies in reaching his friends.  Play, play, play during camp with your group, you can rest next week.  Or for those that work summer camp, you can rest in 2 months.

  • Eat With Them

Talk about a captive audience, make sure you are eating with at least on of they youth in your small group every time you sit down to eat a meal.  This is such an easy time to get into their life and know them more.  If you are taking the time to understand who they are outside of group time, when you sit down for group, you already know where they stand and how to specifically ask them questions.  There is no better place than the breakfast/lunch/dinner table to listen to there stories and share yours.

  • Make A Big Deal of Small Things

Many kids don’t have fans.  What I mean is, they don’t have someone who supports them.  At every baseball game, soccer game, basketball game, and the first 15 times I preached, my mom and dad were there as my biggest fans.  Making over me like I was the best thing since sliced bread and selfies.  I was told how great I did and how to improve my weaknesses.  A lot of kids don’t have this, this is what I mean by fans.  It’s time they had one and as their small group leader, that’s you.  If a student does something awesome, crazy, cool, makes a great play, go nuts!  Let me make sure you hear me.  IF THERE IS A REASON TO MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF A KID, LOSE YOUR MIND AND GO BANANA SANDWICHES!!!

If there is a reason to make a big deal out of  a student, lose your mind and go banana sandwiches!

Talk about how cool it is, tell them later how funny that was when they said ___________, tell a group later how proud you are of them in front of them, and make sure to make a big deal out of students when they are are reflecting the image of Christ.  Again, make students feel special.

It all really comes down to the closer you are with your group outside of the group, the better your group will be.  Put in the time outside of your group and when you sit down for your group time, it will be great.

Have fun at CAMP!!!

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014