Q: I lead a youth group and want to set up a Bible study. What’s the best size for a small group?
A: Ideally, a small group should have no more than 12 young people in it – after all, WWJD 😉
There are a few other factors that will affect the size of a youth small group though:
If you have 20 young people and there’s only you and one other volunteer who are available to lead a small group, it would make sense to have two groups of 10 people.
However, if the volunteer is inexperienced or not confident in their ability to lead a group with that many youth, you may wish to change the ratio so that you have 12 and the volunteer has 8.
Are you planning on having the small group be co-ed, or will you have separate groups for boys and girls? If it’s going to be co-ed, you’ll need to make sure that there’s one male and one female leader for each group.
If a co-ed group needs to cover gender specific subjects, they can then split into two smaller groups if appropriate.
If you have a group with many talkative young people or there are a large amount of dominant personalities, you may find it more optimal to have smaller sized groups. That way, the quieter youth will have more of an opportunity to contribute, rather than the discussion being hijacked by a handful of vocal young people.
How large is the place where you’re going to meet? If there are only small rooms available for you to meet, this will restrict the size of each of the small groups.
Do you want your young people to bring along their friends to an environment where they can explore faith in a non-threatening way? (Hopefully the answer’s yes!) If so, it might be best to have smaller groups.
A young person who’s never been to church could end up feeling quite uncomfortable joining a group of 11 youth who have been to church their whole life. Although we mentioned at the beginning that it’s OK to have 12 in a small group, at that point it can be better to split into two groups of six (if feasible).
If you’re trying to increase youth participation by having young people lead the group, ease them into this responsibility by having them lead a smaller group. As things progress (and as the group hopefully grows), they will be more comfortable than if they’d started off leading 11 other youth in the first place.
As we said at the beginning, the maximum size of a youth small group should be 12. In reality though, I think the ideal amount is closer to 8 young people. This gives room for growth while allowing all the youth in the group an opportunity to join in a discussion.
Even if the young people know each other from the main youth group, a Bible study can lead to there being different group dynamics. It’s therefore worth being aware of the five stages of group development.
Question: What do you think? Is the optimal small group size bigger or smaller than 8? Let us know in the comments below.
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