By Danna Fransis
Many young people on church rolls are lonely, untouched and uncared for by either Christian adults or teens. Such neglect is not intentional, it just happens as youth leaders get busy planning and conducting youth meetings, socials, retreats and other happenings. It is assumed that someone will come along and befriend each teen, but that doesn’t usually happen. Youth, especially teens who are quiet or not fully involved in the program, are sometimes thought of merely in terms of the group and their individuality is lost.
Care Groups are organized to encourage adults in befriending teens. They keep teens from getting “lost” in the crowd. They assure each teen in the church of an adult who will greet and talk to him personally on Sunday, phone when he is sick or absent and take him out occasionally for special activities. With Care Groups, no teen drops out of church, turns away from the Lord or experiences personal need without some adult repeatedly showing personal concern.
The Care Group is primarily a fellowship structure. It is not a program. There are no Care Group meetings. Each Care Group leader works individually with the teens in his group on his own time and at his own pace to build a friendship, discover needs, build accountability and disciple.
Care Groups primarily involve one-on-one ministry. The grouping is done for organizational purposes. Placing five or six teens at different levels of spiritual maturity together with a leader encourages the leader because he is able to work with responsive and unresponsive young people at the same time. One responsive teen encourages the Care Group leader to continue to reach out to teens who are slower in their response to his care. There will always be one young person who senses need and accepts the friendship ministry of the Care Group leader.
How Are Care Groups Established?
Care Groups are comprised of an adult and five or six teens. Adult Care Group leaders need not teach Sunday school, lead the youth group or even be able to stand up before a group. The basic requirement is that they care for teens and display a willingness to befriend a small number of teens.
Young people are carefully placed in Care Groups by either the youth worker or youth director. A youth survey is taken prior to forming Care Groups. The survey is given to each young person in the church and is comprised of three questions.
1 Which young people in our church do you consider to be your friends?
2 Which young people would you like to get to know better?
3 Which young people in the church do you really respect?
Using the survey results and personal observations, the youth leader organizes the Care Groups. It is important that every young person on the church roll be placed in a Care Group. Group young people with their friends. Separate boys and girls. Half of the members of each Care Group need to be young people who regularly attend church activities. These regulars are called “Core Kids” and are mixed with young people who are on the fringes of the youth program. Once young people have been formed into Care Groups, adult leaders are selected. Adult leaders must be compatible with the young people in their Care Group. A quiet adult who tends to be shy should not be placed with teens who are loud, energetic and enthusiastic.
Guidelines In Forming Care Groups
1 Include all youth
2 Separate sexes
3 Group teens with friends
4 Place “Core Kids” in each group
5 Assign adult leader five or six teens
6 Match leader with compatible youth
Once all young people have been placed in Care Groups and adult leaders appointed, the Care Group concept is explained to the young people, and they are given the names of the members of their group. Young people who become a part of the church after the Care Groups have been formed are added to Care Groups as the year proceeds. Newcomers, brought by a friend, would be placed in their friend’s Care Group.
Care Groups can be re-formed each year; however, it is wise to maintain a group that is functioning well and simply add one or two new members to it.
What Do Care Group Leaders Do?
Care Group leaders have three main functions: befriending, discovering, disciplining. The responsibility of befriending the members of their Care Group is most important. Teenagers do not look on very many adults as friends. To many teens, adults just exist and have their own world of friends and concerns. The Care Group leader demonstrates to the teen that he cares. Some leaders will invite teens to their home or organize social activities. Others will choose to write letters, make phone calls or engage their teens in frequent conversation at church. Each leader expresses care and concern for the individuals in his group in the ways he personally determines best for him.
Friends are sensitive to the needs of each other. The second responsibility of the Care Group leader is discovering the needs of his young people. Needs can be discovered through conversation and observation. As they are discovered, it is important that the Care Group leader do his best to meet these needs.
The third responsibility of a Care Group leader is building accountability and discipling. The Care Group leader will find that some young people will not allow a friendship to develop. With these young people, building account-ability or discipleship is impossible. The Care Group leader will only be able to minister on the level the teen allows. When young people show a need and desire a short-term Bible study program, the Care Group leader can assume this discipleship ministry. Similarly when a teen wants someone to pray regularly or memorize Scripture with him, the leader individually helps the teen in that area.
Accountability involves the teen making decisions and following through on them. The Care Group leader checks on the teen from week to week to see if he is following through on personal commitments. Obviously, building accountability is impossible without a friendship and knowledge of the commitments a teen may have made. Frequent conversation and regular friendship-building encounters make accountability and discipleship possible.
No teen turns away or drops out without an adult repeatedly showing personal concern.
How Are Care Group Leaders Sustained?
Care Group leaders need to be encouraged regularly if they are to remain motivated in ministering to teens. It is important for Care Group leaders to meet once a month. During these meetings six types of activities might occur:
1 Relationship building
2 Sharing joys and burdens
4 Idea sharing
6 Ministry assignments
Adults need to grow in their relationships with one another if they are to feel a part of the ministry team. Relationship-building activities, such as meeting in a member’s home, are often planned into the leaders’ meeting. Sharing times are also planned to communicate to other leaders the joys and burdens in ministering to youth. Sharing is an encouragement to Care Group leaders and often leads to meaningful times of prayer. These prayer times should be focused upon the specific needs of individual teens and leaders. Answers to prayer are easily observed and reported when prayer is so focused.
Care Group leaders are always in need of more ideas. The youth worker should bring some ministry ideas to each meeting and leaders can share ministry experiences that have worked for them. Occasionally training features can be incorporated into the meeting. Studies on topics such as youth counseling, listening, confronting, visitation, personal goal-setting and peer-group pressure can improve the ministry skills of Care Group leaders. Leaders’ meetings can conclude with the assignment of ministry projects which each leader can complete prior to the following leaders’ meeting.
The most important element in sustaining Care Group leaders is the gathering together each month to share and pray. Caring groups are dependent upon adult leaders who feel that they are a part of a ministry team and sense the importance of their ministry. It is the responsibility of the youth director or worker to build this ministry team and communicate the importance of this caring ministry to his Care Group leaders.
This article “Care Groups” written by Danna Fransis is excerpted from Growing A Ladies Ministry written by Danna Fransis chapter 8.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”