Ask AnnieBlogs: Small group!


We're grainy and we know it.

Sometimes people ask me stuff. And I like to answer them here on the ol’ bloggy. This does not mean that I know everything about everything. I’m just sharing my opinions and experiences.

Amen.

Today’s post is about one of the very best parts of my life right now: my Cross Point small group!

The question comes from a lovely reader named Jess.

I just started a small group with girls from the university that I live a couple blocks from…. Any tips or lessons you have learned working with college students you can pass along? Stuff that works? Stuff that hasn’t?

What does work: feeding them.

What doesn’t work: being selfish.

You’re welcome. Y’all have a great day.

[insert cricket sounds here]

Ok, I kid. I’ll give a better answer than that.

You know what is awesome about college students? They are figuring out how to be adults. And if you choose to pour some of your life into them at that place, you are shaping adults. No pressure. But whoa- that’s awesome.

As previously stated, I do NOT know everything about college ministry or small groups or what-have-you, but I will share a few of the things that I think make for a successful college small group.

[PS- these are practical tips... not so much spiritual tips. But I would say pray pray pray and ask God how to uniquely lead your group as you all work to grow closer to the Lord and each other.]

. . . . .

1. Invite them into your home. Because many of my girls don’t know any adults in this town, they had only been in dorm rooms before coming over to my house! How sad! Part of leading a college small group is giving them a safe place that feels like a real home.

2. Feed them. Seriously. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, dessert and coffee is fine, but let the girls eat. And if your girls are anything like my girls, they will have no shame in eatin’ up. [I like that about my people.]

3. Connect with them individually. I try to get coffee with each of my girls once a month or so. They need to know that I feel personally committed to their growth and health and life [because I do]. Sit with them, listen to them, hear them, hug them, pray for them.

4. Connect them to each other, not just to you. Once a month, my girls write notes to each other- we draw names out of a bowl. It’s important that they grow to love and trust each other as much as they love and trust me. I also paired them up one week and they had to pray for each other and get together for coffee. The goal is to grow the friendships in the group.

5. Build trust. From day 1, they need to know they are in a safe place to talk about their life. Make sure the culture of your group is a culture of trust. That building process looks different for everyone and isn’t always easy, but it is super important.

6. Do stuff outside of your normal meetings. Last week, there was a worship night in town and our group went together. You have to earn the right to be heard [thank you Drew Hill for teaching me that!] and a great way to do that is to invest time doing fun stuff together- picnics, fro yo, concerts, whatever.

7. Know your boundaries. Early on, I told the girls this truth: “I will say no when I need to say no.” – either because I have other stuff going on or because I want to stay home or whatevs. The best thing you can be for them is healthy – including in relationships outside of your small group. Don’t make them your life. [It helps that I'm 12 years older than my chickadees, so they don't always want me hanging out. I can dig that.] This includes time boundaries- my girls know when we start and know when they have to go home.

8. Be real. Be you. Be honest. It is hard for me to share when I’m struggling through something, but it is important too. But keep #7 in mind… share with your small group, live openly before them, but have boundaries with what you share.

My best advice as for the “don’ts” of small grouping? Don’t be selfish. This commitment, at times, is a sacrifice. And that’s okay. Give for the girls and they will learn to give. Let the opportunities to serve in uncomfortable ways sharpen you.

. . . . .

I hope that helps, Jess!

I know there are tons of y’all out there who lead small groups as well. How about you toss a tip into the comment section? I’d love to learn more about being a good leader of any age small group, books to read about discipleship, sermons to listen to, etc. Let’s get tip-tastic today in the comments!

If anyone else has questions for a future “Ask AnnieBlogs” post, bring it! Nashville? Writing? Singleness? Glitter? Leave a comment here or email me at annieblogs [at] gmail [dot] com.

  1. Face says:
    April 16, 2012 at 4:17 am

    What if I live in a fro yo-free city?!?! What do I do then???
    Ha. These were really great tips, esp as I try to think of ways to draw the girls in our community group closer together. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:11 am

      I think you and Jake need to open a Fro-Yo spot in your town. :)

      Reply

  2. April 16, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Annie, this is so helpful for me! I’ve just started a group for young college/single girls. Thank you for your great advice!!

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:11 am

      I wish I could be in a small group that you led, Brenda! Those girls are blessed.

      Reply

  3. merideth says:
    April 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Love your suggestions. Makes me wish I lead a small group of girls so I could apply these ideas. Maybe one of these days. You are such a blessing to those girls, Annie.

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Thanks, Merideth!

      Reply

  4. April 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I passed this along to someone who leads young girls at our church. Great advice.

    P.S. This weekend is THE weekend!! So excited!

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Yay! Thanks so much!

      Reply

  5. Tay says:
    April 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Hey Annie, I am currently a senior in high school, soon to be a freshman college! I know you have some experience with college girls, so what tips can you reccommend me as I start off on the new journey in a few months?

    Reply

    • Tay says:
      April 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Oops… freshman *in college

      Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Hi Tay! Yes- I will do a whole post on that next week … in fact, I’ll probably just get my girls to tell you. They know better than me. :)

      (Also- see Sarah’s comment below… she’s in my group. A total all-star.)

      Reply

  6. Sarah says:
    April 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Annie this was absolutely beautiful! Im going to share it with my mom so she can see what an amazing leader I have in my life :)

    tay – the best advice that i can give you (because i am a freshman in college this year) is to let your guard down, be yourself, and don’t be afraid to try new things! The good ol phrase “you’ll regret 100% of the shots you don’t make” totally applies to college.

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

      You’re the coolest, Sarah. Our group would not be the same without you.

      Reply

  7. Emily E says:
    April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Annie–is it ok that I got way excited that you know Drew Hill even though I’ve never actually met you? He was one of my YL leaders when I was in high school! small world :)

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

      He is awesome.

      And yes, it is a super small world. :)

      Reply

  8. April 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I’m not currently leading a small group although we (hubby and I) did for a number of years and my best tip is this – see the people you’re leading as 10s so that you help bring out the potential God’s placed in them :)

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

      LOVE that advice, Marcia! Thank you.

      Reply

  9. jennifer says:
    April 17, 2012 at 7:19 am

    So good, Annie. From my long ago years as a Young Life leader, you nailed it when you said earn the right to be heard. You cannot preach, preach , preach (or whatever you want call that teaching/preaching/Bible study time). You have to have fun, do things your group wants to do sometimes. You have to step out of your comfort zone, be a little silly, make fun of yourself, try the activity you don’t think you can do (teach fearlessness through your own actions). I am amazed at how this later turns to young ladies being willing to listen to you and your love for Jesus. They know your struggles because you have lived in front of them. You do that well. Your girls are blessed to have you as their small group leader!

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

      My friend Drew is a YL guy… hence the advice matching what you remember. :)

      Thanks for your thoughts… love you!!

      Reply

  10. Sara says:
    April 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I only wish I had someone like you around when I was at college. Your girls are so blessed but it sounds as if they are such a blessing to you too. That is so special.

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      You’re sweet. And yes, they have grown to mean a ton to me. Love them.

      Reply

  11. Cami says:
    April 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Love your advice. The only thing I would add would be to be willing to use your own mistakes and shortcomings as teaching opportunities. It helps for your group to know you’re not perfect!

    Reply

    • Annie says:
      April 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Great word, Cami. I struggle so much with this…. how do you decide the line of what to tell and what not to tell?

      Reply

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