The foundational starting point of the book released last month , The Small Group Leader’s Quick guide to (Almost) Everything, is that youth ministry thrives when the volunteer leaders are equipped for their task.

But many are not. Often, churches find any warm and willing body (usually someone who’s young) to serve in that role. “Heck, anyone who will agree to spend time with teenagers in any capacity,” they suppose, “better you than me.”

Many people think youth volunteers have to look a certain way: skinny jeans, cool hair, and up-to-date on the latest social media trends. We disagree. Here’s how we put it in the Introduction:

Serving with teenagers isn’t like being back in high school—you don’t need to dress a certain way or act a certain way or worry about your relative hip-ness. You just need 3 things to be an effective small group leader.

  1. Love Jesus
  2. Care about teenagers
  3. Be willing to build and invest your time in a relationship with them.

We quote a volunteer who sums it up this way. “It turns out that young people can smell ‘care’ under layers of nerd.” What a beautiful picture of youth ministry! It’s about an adult caring for the spiritual needs of a student. That’s really what the retreats and the games and the bus rides to retreats (probably the worst part of youth ministry) are all for: earning adults the right to show students that they care, and to lead those students into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

But a lot of youth pastors are very busy trying to manage the chaos around them, and don’t always get to training their volunteers. We hope this book can be the one-stop shopping for those volunteers.

A quick overview of what we cover:

  • Leaders need to know how to BE a great leader

Great leadership starts with the heart and character of the leader. In this chapter, we talk about the different relationships that must be prioritized and the idea that you can’t give away what you don’t have already have.

  • Leaders need to know how to PLAN a great small group

Good small groups don’t happen accidentally. They take thoughtfulness, planning, vision, and care. You even need to think about the physical layout of the space you’re meeting in.

  • Leaders need to know how to LEAD a great small group

When it’s “go time,” you need to know what to do in the moment. How do you handle disruptive students? Quiet students? We introduce you to various folks like Talkie McTalkerson, Bobby the Bump-on-a-Log, Willa the Wallflower, and more, and discuss how to engage with those students.

  • Leaders need to know what to do when difficult situations arise

It’s impossible for us to address all of them, but we tackled the ones we have experienced the most. The bottom line on difficult questions is: even when you don’t know something, it’s entirely appropriate to say “I don’t know the answer, but let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.” Students will appreciate the authenticity of that response.

Finally…(I’m serious about this) I also include my family’s legendary pumpkin bread recipe at the end of chapter 8.

What’s the state of the youth ministry at your church?
Are leaders getting trained?
Do you have some success stories in your life of a leader who wasn’t the prototypical youth volunteer?