Re-Thinking How You Invest In Your Students’ Spiritual Growth by Andy Blanks
There’s an important truth about spiritual growth in the lives of our teenagers: it happens outside of your meeting time. You need a strategy and a plan for how we use the time you meet together to lead students to grow in their knowledge of God (whether this is small group or large group). But if we’re not accounting for how we continue to lead their spiritual growth outside of our group time, we’re blowing it.
Most of us use our small group times to both invest relationally, and to help students know God more through teaching the Bible. This is a good thing. But many of us inadvertently behave as if our gathering time is where spiritual growth and change occur.
In reality, spiritual growth happens when teenagers apply what they learn outside of our gatherings. Real change happens in the day-to-day lives of our teenagers, not in the 45 minutes we spend in small group.
I like to think of our meeting time as the place where the seed gets planted and real life the field in which it grows. I don’t know about you, but I want to be involved in the “growing” aspect of their lives just as much as I do in the “planting.”
How can we begin to think about making this happen? Here’s some guidance on how I think about how we can engage in life outside our meeting time in a way that supports the learning that takes place.
LAY GOOD GROUNDWORK IN YOUR MEETING
When we teach, it’s helpful to drill down on one specific biblical truth (I call this The Main Thing), and one targeted application of this truth (I call this The Main Takeaway). I try and challenge students to come up with their own takeaway, ones that are practical and relevant to real life. If you do this, you give yourself a really focused way to follow up with students and be a part of the growth that happens outside of your meeting time.
FOCUS YOUR FOLLOW-UP OUTSIDE OF YOUR MEETING TIME ON THE MAIN TAKEAWAY
Spend your week challenging and reinforcing the specific application point you discussed in your meeting time. Here are some thoughts on what this looks like:
- As you text students during the week, make sure a few of them are targeted with reinforcing the Main Takeaway from your lesson. Track with how they’re doing implementing it in their lives.
- When you’re meeting, give them something to anchor your Main Takeaway, like a rubber band to wear, a trinket to carry in their pocket, or something printed on cardstock they can take with them . . . anything that helps remind them during the week to apply the truth you covered in their lives. When you call or text them, you can reference it and ask how things are going.
- Have some of your Instagram or Facebook posts address the application. Get creative. Use WordSwag or another text/photo editing software to create a visual that reinforces your takeaway.
- Call and ask how it’s going. Novel idea, I know. ☺
Interacting with students outside of our meeting times is the heart of what it means to be a youth worker. But sometimes we act as if our job ends when our scheduled meeting time is over. We need to make sure we’re engaging outside of our meeting time with transformation in mind.