Before I tell you why you should buy this book, I’ll say this: I wish Syler Thomas and Steven Tighe would write guidebooks to many aspects of the Christian life. May I suggest The Lay Leader’s Guide, The Parent of Teenagers Guide, or perhaps The Quick Guide to Being a Member of the Local Church? I would read them all. These guys are wise and experienced counselors sharing a wealth of practical experience richly seasoned with grace.
The Small Group Leader’s Quick Guide to (Almost) Everything is a little book (hence, the “quick”) that packs theology, ministry tools, helpful stories, and godly wisdom into every page. Designed for youth pastors to give to their small group leaders, this guide is an ideal text for training lay members of the church to lead small groups of middle and high school students. A sample of the range of what this book covers:
The mission of youth ministry small groups: “To guide teenagers into a deeper relationship with Jesus and from them into a community that the Holy Spirit can live inside.”
Planning a great small group: “On the other side of awkward is awesome…” and how to determine the purpose of that specific group (leadership, missions, Bible study) to dissolve that awkwardness.
Leading a great small group: This section is chock full of practical suggestions, including creative ways to close in prayer and a list of twenty conversation starters (both related to biblical texts and the get-to-know you stuff), among other great resources.
How to help hurting teenagers: In addition to an in-depth discussion of referring students to their youth pastor and ministry leaders, this chapter includes guidance on the lost art of listening well: “So when teenagers come to us with any problem, it’s important to take them seriously. We gauge the seriousness of the problem not on its surface characteristics but on how much pain it’s causing them.”
How to maintain healthy boundaries: Always a useful discussion for adults who genuinely want to help teens but need to understand when their helping is not helpful. I especially appreciate how this chapter addresses the possibility that inappropriate attachments may threaten leader-student relations, offering guidance about what to do if this happens.
Every page of this small guide is infused with grace and love for leaders, teenagers, and Jesus. Syler and Steven share a gentle sense of humor and self-deprecation, so that rather than offering a dry “how-to” instruction manual, they walk alongside the reader as trusted teachers. Start with this guide when training your small-group leaders; they will be well prepared to do the good work.