Reason #199 Why We Love Small Groups

A few of our 2017 grads. Photo credit to one of our moms for snapping and sharing the pic.

Earlier in May we honored the class of 2017. It’s an annual event we do in our services where we bring our high school seniors on stage and recognize them for graduating. While it’s a regular thing we do (along with churches all across the country), each year is as unique as the members of each graduating class.

For the past few years we have asked our grads to fill out a brief questionnaire so we can make the recognition a bit more personal. Not all of our congregation knows every graduate by name so it’s an opportunity to highlight what our grads have achieved and what they have planned.

The last question for them to respond to was this: What is Your Best School Memory?

A couple of their answers show just why we love small groups.

I anticipated that our grads might point to homecoming or prom or an athletic or academic accomplishment. Some did. In fact, one of our grads was Homecoming Queen this year. Two of our grads finished #3 and #4 in their graduating class. Others enjoyed some athletic success.

But what two of our grads put down as their best memory had to do with their experience in small groups.

Here are the grads own words:

“I loved being kidnapped . . . by my small group leaders. It was always fun being surprised and spending the day with my small group.”

“My favorite memory is having our annual small group Christmas party/sleepover.”

Just another reason why we love small groups.

To the small group leaders out there: You are making an impact. You have influence. Sometimes we just have to wait until they graduate (or later) to see it or hear it.

To the small group leaders out there: Thank You!

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Just Another Reason We Love Small Groups

IMG_0601We think small groups are a great thing for students and adults to be a part of and a good tool to help us grow spiritually. Our senior minister says on a regular basis that the best way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to get in a group. I love it when our small group leaders invest time and energy in our students. Sometimes it’s attending a game or concert. Sometimes it’s having a great discussion about something in God’s Word. And sometimes it’s just having fun together.

This past weekend one of our guy’s small groups had fun together – an event they called “Hamburgers, Hotdogs & Home Run Derby.” It’s just what it sounds like. They ate food and played some baseball. From the pictures it looks like they snuck some football into the afternoon as well.

All of our small group leaders are great! One of our leaders mailed out a letter this week to the parents of his small group leaders. Another small group has developed the tradition of having a sleepover around Christmas time and even making a video. (I haven’t received permission to post the videos…but they have a lot of fun!) Another of our groups went out to a local golf course’s driving range – and most of the members really don’t play golf.  Those are just a few ways that our small group leaders connect with our students, develop relationship and encourage our students in their walk with Jesus.

We like to celebrate our small groups and the pictures below are just an example of what happens within our small groups. Great job to all of our leaders!

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A little home run derby

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the chefs hard at work

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time for some football

Great Week at MOVE #kingdomworker

IMG_0001Last week we took some of our high school students to the MOVE Conference held on Cedarville University’s campus. Christ In Youth has been producing weeks of conference for nearly 50 years and it seems like they just keep growing in number and getting better in quality.

This year’s theme was “You Are Here” and was based on the first six chapters of the Old Testament book of Daniel. Kind of a funny thing about the theme – anytime I saw the theme “You Are Here” I assumed it was about those of us who were going to be at MOVE. Once we got rolling in the week, it was obvious that the “You” was not a reference to “me” or to “us,” but to God. God was present with Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and He is present with us. That thread ran throughout the week of conference – You (God) Are Here!

Over the past few years, there has been an intentional move on the part of the coordinators of the week to challenge students to take what they experience at conference and live it out at home. They use the phrase #kingdomworker. All of us, no matter our age or location, can be kingdom workers. Several of our students accepted specific challenges to be kingdom workers at home. I’m excited to see how they work out those specific tasks in the coming weeks and months.

One of the benefits of MOVE (or any summer camp or conference) is time spent with students. We had two times each day that was focused on talking about and applying what was happening during the week. We also had free times and meals together, which provided times for conversation and getting to know each other.

On one particular day, the students had a chance to write encouraging words to each other. It was cool to sit back and watch them think through what they could write to encourage others in the group.
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There were several fun elements included throughout the week. In the book of Daniel, there is a unique event that involves King Nebuchadnezzar. The king has become quite arrogant, so God warms him that if he doesn’t change, God would humble him. Nebuchadnezzar ignores the warning so God caused him to live as an animal, complete with long nails that look like claws and long hair that grows to resemble feathers. You can read the entire story in Daniel 4. To highlight that event, students were encouraged to come to morning session in animal outfits. Here’s some of our group:
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It was a good week to see God move in the lives of students and adults and send us out to be kingdom workers. I’m looking forward to see the commitments made this week become a reality.

Instagram Continues to Grow

instagramI saw a link on Facebook that pointed to the Instagram blog where it was shared that the social media utility has grown to 300 million users. 300 Million! That makes my follower count seem even smaller.

Instagram passed Twitter in number of users a several months ago. I checked today and the number of Twitter users is 288 million with 500 million tweets sent each day. That’s not too shabby.

Pretty remarkable is the fact that Facebook is still quite popular. In December, 2014, the number of daily active users was 890 million.

Those numbers make it pretty clear that people are engaging in a number of different ways through social media.  Some folks were saying that Facebook was dying, but it seems they are still going strong.  While different age groups might be using different outlets (SnapChat, Instagram, etc), social media is a powerful tool to connect people.  It will be interesting to see how it continues to grow and what new trends develop in the future.

Celebrating Small Groups

Small Group wierd no wordsSmall Groups have been a key part of our ministry for the past number of years. We think one of the best things our students can do is to meet consistently with a group of students and adult leaders to connect, study scripture, pray together, serve together and support each other. I am continually grateful for the small group leaders we have who meet regularly with our students to build trust, encourage and model what it means to follow Jesus.

One thing that I have become convinced of is the need to celebrate the “wins” that happen in student ministry. When you have students for 7 years (6th – 12th grade), it is important to celebrate when good things take place. Much of the fruit of student ministry doesn’t show up sometimes til years later and discouragement can easily set in.

This weekend I saw where our small groups are developing fruit. There are a few wins we celebrate.

We celebrate when we see growth. I talked with one of our junior high small group leaders and he shared how he has seen growth in his group. They are starting to ask more questions and they have volunteered to lead the group. For the next few weeks, each of the guys in the group will prepare and lead a devotion for the group. It’s a great chance for them to get into the Word to read it, understand it and prepare to share it with a group of peers.

We celebrate when we see service. In just the past 10 days, I’ve seen where our groups are serving together. Several members of two of our high school girls groups showed up on a Saturday to serve at our concession stand that will benefit our 1MISSION project. Most of them couldn’t say for the whole event, but they came and served alongside their small group leaders.

One of our high school guys group is serving in our Upward program. Almost every member of that group is either helping with the technical side of the games (running lights, clock, etc.) or serving as referees for the games.

I know that our students are growing and serving in other ways that we don’t always see, but it is encouraging to see specific examples of how our students are growing and serving.

We continue to look for ways to make our small groups better, to equip our leaders more and add additional leaders. While we do that, I think it is worth to time to stop and celebrate the wins.

Instagram Fastest Growing App in ’13

instagramLast week I posted about how Facebook may not be dying in the world of social media. While people are using Twitter and other social media tools, Facebook still has a strong presence.

Then, last week, I saw this article on MediaPost.com informing us that Instagram was the fastest growing app in 2013. Twitter, which has 30.7 million users, was the 10th fastest growing.  It seems that people prefer posting images over words with an average of 103.4 million unique visitors on IG last year.

It can be a challenge trying to keep up with the various ways people, including our own children and student in our churches, communicate with each other.  I think it is interesting to see what apps are not only popular, but continue to be used over the course of time.

Here is the full article posted on MediaPost.com.

Facebook was the No. 1 app overall in 2013, but its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram was the fastest-growing app among the top 10.

With an average of 103.4 million unique visitors last year between January and October, Facebook had easily the largest U.S. audience of any app, with traffic up 27% from 2012. But that growth rate paled in comparison to Instagram — acquired by the social network in 2012 for $1 billion — which saw its app audience surge 66% to 32 million last year, according to Nielsen data.

That’s partly a result of starting from a smaller base, but the comparison with Facebook won’t do anything to dispel the growing perception that the growth in social media — especially among teens — is shifting to single-purpose or messaging apps, including Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Whisper and others.

Instagram also outpaced Twitter, the No. 10 app that grew 36% to 30.7 million last year. How Instagram’s growth translates into ad sales should start to become clear this year, with advertising in the app just launched at the end of 2013. In a recent research note, JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth suggested, however, that advertising will continue to roll out slowly on Instagram this year, not contributing significantly to Facebook’s overall revenue.

Close on Instagram’s heels in terms of growth was Apple’s Maps app (No. 8), which increased its audience 64% to nearly 32 million. That gain highlights Apple’s success in luring back irate users after its disastrous launch in iOS 6 in 2012. That isn’t to say it can match the cross-platform reach of Google Maps, which last year boasted 68.6 million uniques, reflecting 14% growth.

Indeed, Google apps — which also include Search, Play YouTube and Gmail — made up half the top 10 apps in 2013, pointing to the ubiquity of the Android OS. The Google platform ran on more than half (52%) of U.S. smartphones in November, according to the latest market share data from comScore.

The increase in mobile adoption overall drove down desktop traffic in 2013 compared to the prior year for each of the top 10 Web sites, according to Nielsen. Google — the No. 1 site, with an average online audience of 164.8 million last year — saw traffic drop 6%, while Facebook’s fell 16% to 135 million, and Yahoo’s 9% to 129.8 million.

Among the top 10, the Ask Search Network suffered the biggest decline, falling 16% to 64.2 million. YouTube, the top video site in 2013, also saw a dip in its audience — slipping 6% from 2012 to 128.4 million, but still far ahead of No. 2 Vevo, with 37.2 million, down 9%. No. 3 video property Yahoo saw traffic fall 8% to 35.4 million.

3 Questions for the School Year

3 QuestionsWe kicked off another year of small groups Sunday night. I love the excitement and anticipation a new school year brings. It’s a new start and a time for groups that met last year to get back into the routine of meeting again. It’s also a time to welcome new students into small groups and help them connect with each other.

One bonus this year is that we have some new leaders in our groups. We have two of our young adult/college age guys that are helping with two groups. We also have two high school senior girls who will be co-leading a girls group.

As we begin a new season, we are striving to keep three questions out in front of our students. We want these questions to be a continual reminder to our students (and adults) that we all need to see where we need to make progress in our spiritual journey. The three questions will hopefully be a source of challenge when we need that kick-start or need to get back on track.

1) How are your growing? We want to help our students to take steps where they are growing on their own, outside of the church or small group environment. Are they reading the Bible on their own and spending time in prayer?

2) Where are your serving? Our desire is for our students to be an active part of our church family, not just showing up and being present, but serving in some area of ministry.

3) Who are you reaching? Everyone has influence on someone else. We want to encourage our students to use their influence in the lives of others to point them to Jesus.

The school year is underway and we don’t know what the coming months may bring. We can strive to grow, serve and reach. Here’s to a great school year!