I recently wrote a post on creating unity in your small group in which I shared some things you can do to promote unity in your small group. It was picked up by Church Leaders and Terrace Crawford promoted it with a tweet. That got a reaction from Paul Sheneman. His view: unity isn’t a technicality issue. And he’s right of course, unity isn’t something you can create by following certain steps. Or let me put it this way: following certain steps isn’t a guarantee for unity in your youth group. There’s is no five-step program that results in unity. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Why strive for unity?
Unity in our youth group is something we should strive for. Jesus Himself said it: our unity as Christians, our love for one another is the most powerful testimony we have (e.g. John 13:35, John 17:20-23). I’ve seen the truth of these words, when we had this kind of unity in my former youth group, we were a magnet for young people. They wanted to know what we had, they wanted to belong. Jesus was right (as always), unity draws people to God. So we should do everything we can to promote unity.
But unity doesn’t come easy in a youth group, it can be a real struggle to try and get teens or students to even respect each other, let alone love each other. That shouldn’t stop us from trying.
Let’s not forget that even Jesus’ disciples weren’t a perfect unity. Besides from the fact that one of them was able to betray Jesus without the others ever having a clue to what he was up to, they were also fighting among themselves about who was the most important. So much for brotherly love there. Yet what we read about the early church makes us long for the same kind of unity – and those were the very same disciples! They had learnt something along the way.
I believe that there are things we can do to promote unity in our small group and in our youth group as a whole. I’ve written about unity in small groups already and I’ll get deeper into things you can do to promote unity in your youth group as a whole in a next post. These ‘steps’ don’t guarantee success, but I believe that God will bless your efforts. It’s His will that your youth group is a unity, so any prayers on your part to that effect, He will answer.
A story about unity
For now, I just want to remind you that unity in a youth group is possible. I know, I’ve seen it happen. We had a youth group of about eighty students or so (16-23 years old) and we were doing okay. The youth ministry was growing, we were doing all kinds of new things like youth services and worship nights and stuff. It was exciting to see students get more interested about faith, get enthusiastic for youth group and church in general.
But we weren’t seeing much unity. The students had some friendships among each other, but there were many ‘groups’ within the youth group with some students being left out. We started praying for unity. We’d already seen unity happening in our own small group and we wanted to see this happen in the entire youth group. So we started doing a lot of stuff together, we tried to do some fun things and some serious things, things that had worked in our small group. And we saw some early results: a few new friendships growing that went across these ‘groups’ and a couple of left out students being included.
Then the dad of two of our students died completely unexpectedly, a few days before we had our annual weekend retreat. These two boys decided to go to the retreat nonetheless. What happened was nothing short of a miracle. The entire youth group surrounded them with love, compassion, and prayer. There were many tears that weekend, both boys cried a lot and it was heartbreaking to watch them grief. But their youth group members were there with them every step of the way.
There were countless hugs when needed, shoulders to cry on, there were hands to be held and tissues to be distributed. Everyone came together and stood as one. It was an awesome sight to see. At Saturday the two boys had to go back home for a few hours for the viewing and several of other small group members went with them, wanting to carry their load with them. And in that weekend, amidst all the grief, God created a unity in our youth group that lasted well beyond that weekend.
So yes, it is possible to have unity in your youth group. It’s even possible to do things that will promote it. You just need to realize that in the end, it’s God who does the part that we can’t do. We can only do so much to create unity, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I am convinced that God will bless our efforts, because He wants nothing more that to see us united in Christ.
Is your youth group experiencing unity? Can you think of factors that contributed? Or are your struggling in that area? What are the biggest challenges? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!