Over the past four weeks, my youth ministry has been experimenting with student led small groups.
Truth be told, this experiment was birthed out of a shortage of adult leaders. In an effort to keep the size of our small groups small, I invited student leaders who'd previously led a discussion (and have, therefore, already received training on how to lead a discussion) to lead these small groups.
Teens seized this opportunity.
They prepared well and led the discussions with maturity and grace.
That said, these discussion were far from flawless.
Even so, leaders learned from them and participants responded well to them, appreciating the conversational tone their peers managed to lend to the discussion.
I, in turn, appreciated the fact that by giving teens the chance to lead small groups discussions, we're giving them a valuable skill for the future.
You see, good small group leaders excel at both asking questions and listening – two skills that will serve teens well in the future, regardless of where life takes them. As my husband readily admits, he uses the skills learned in my small group training every day in his job as a software craftsman.
Beyond that, teaching teens to lead small groups gives them a skill that will be invaluable to any campus ministry they participate in during college as well as in most churches they'll find themselves in as adults.
I know because I've seen how important good small group leaders are to both campus ministries and churches. I also know how difficult it can be to find them.
What a gift it would be to the future church, then, if we equipped our teens to do this now.
How much better off might the church of the future be if it were to inherit teens who have literally grown up leading small groups and are, therefore, trained and eager to continue doing so?
How much more effective would small group ministries be if we didn't have to convince people they could lead them, but instead, if teens entered churches as young adults knowing they're called and equipped to serve in this capacity?
And how much more likely would teens be to continue going to church as a young adult if they actually believed they were contributing to that community in a powerful way by leading a small group?
As a youth pastor, I'm convinced that teens aren't just the future of the church. They're the church of today.
That said, make no mistake. We set the church of the future up for success when we empower our teens to lead our congregations today... And continue doing so as young adults.