How To Build Community In Your Group

I see community being one of the glues that can hold a youth group together.  Students doing life together and learning about Jesus.  But, how do we have community when natural divisions happen in our group?  

I’ve worked in all sorts of scenarios of youth groups.  My youth group growing up consisted of kids predominantly from one high school.  The youth group I work with now pulls from at least 7 different high schools.  This could cause a natural division in school groups if no community is formed among the whole group.    

Not only can schools cause division in a group, but having different personalities can cause division (which is obvious).  In the end, you’ll still have some sort of division. 

So, how do we get rid of these divisions (or at least blur the lines)?  How do we make multiple friend groups come together to be one community (not necessarily liking everyone, but loving everyone like Jesus did)?How do we welcome in that new person, to be a part of the family?  What about welcoming in that non-believer? 

Here are a few ways:

The language that you use to speak to your group, casts the vision of creating community in your group.  How you speak through your messages, how you give announcements; all play into how a community can be made.  

For instance; when welcoming everyone to group that night, make a point to tell the group that, “here at youth group, we make a point to get to know one another by giving you time before and after group to hang out with one another.  Take that time to talk to someone you don’t know.”  That’s an example that we use. Let them know that talking to people they don’t know is encouraged.  Or even talking to someone they do know and catching up on their life, is encouraged.  

Community is doing life together in a more meaningful way.  Bypassing the surface level stuff and going deeper into someone’s life.  

Speak this out in your messages as well.  Speak on how Jesus lived in community.  Cast the vision of your group when giving a challenge or telling a story.  Let your students know and understand the vision so that they can own it and act it out.  

Changing up the normal program can create an interest from others and form community.  This is kind of what I’ve come up with, so, hang with me for a sec.

When you create a habit in your brain, doing the same thing, the same way, you create this neural pathway.  When you change up that habit, you create a new neural pathway.  Something in that change up creates interest, excitement, or fear in what it could be.  

So, when you do something different from you normal program days, you create this interest (or maybe not an interest from some students) to see what it’s all about.  This could cause them to invite people to this event or even encourage them to do something out of the ordinary, such as talking to someone they don’t know or inviting a new friend to hang out with them.  Therefore, bringing your group together. 

An event can also create this memory that the group has together.  Now they have a common thing to talk about and that can stir on conversations.  This has happened time and time again after camp or missions trips.  Students hang out with different people after they’ve gone away together.  For some reason, that change in the pattern created a new found interest in people outside of their norm.  Tell me you’ve seen it?! 

Create games that stir on community in your group.  For instance; have an upfront game that involves a freshman partnering with a senior.  Get the group mixing and talking.  Get creative with this! Pretty easy to implement.

One thing I want to share that we do, which I used from another church, is a 5-minute Connect.  We take a five-minute break in our programming to do just this – encourage family and community.  We encourage them to talk to people they don’t know, put questions on the screen to help stir the conversation, and even play small “games” to get them to mingle.  Ask me if you want to know more about this! I’m a HUGE fan! And has helped our group tremendously.

Mixed school small groups (still being the same gender, the same grade – if that’s what you do).  By just having different girls in my group from different friend groups and different schools has created a sense of community.  They even talk to each other outside of the group (with girls, this can be a shocker).  If your group is mixed, do things together as a group that stirs on family.  Build that trust with one another.  Now you can even take the previous topics and use them in your small group to create community in your group.

But, by having mixed small groups, paves the way for a blended large group.  Just picture it.  All those mixed small groups coming together, to create one large, blended group.  

Cast vision to your group so they understand what you are looking for in a group.  Give them an opportunity to practice loving others in your own group, so that they can then go and love others outside of the group.  They can then get a better picture of what Jesus’ love is and how He intended for us to do life with others. 

My heart beats for community so please feel free to contact me and I would love to talk about it with you!

Becca Ebenhoch
Guest Blogger
Becca has done youth ministry in various places across the US and is currently doing youth ministry in Modesto, CA.

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