I don’t know if you remember your first day as a Small Group Leader, but I do—it was absolutely terrifying. I was eager to get involved in my church, but when I locked eyes with those students for the first time, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
But when the initial panic finally subsided, I realized I needed a plan. And fast.
I decided I’d begin by helping my girls develop three “spiritual habits” that would help them get to know God better—not just for that year, but for the rest of their lives.

• Prayer

• Reading and studying God’s Word

• Memorizing and meditating on Scripture

These “spiritual habits” are nothing new or revolutionary, but they are foundational. As SGLs, we get the opportunity to encourage these habits in our students’ lives. And, while I definitely don’t have it all figured out, there are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d love to share with you.

1. Be transparent. If I want my girls to practice these three spiritual habits, I’ve learned I have to model them first. Show your students what it looks like to pray and spend time in God’s Word. Talk about what you’re learning and praying for. Be appropriately open and honest about your own struggles and victories. Bring your Bible, journal, or devotional to small group and let them look around and ask questions about how you spend time with God. Do you know how much trust you can build simply by being transparent and authentic about your own faith? A lot. That’s how much.

2. Make it fun. If I want my students to find joy in spending time with God, I’ve learned that I need to help them enjoy the process of developing spiritual habits. Come up with creative ways to help your students spend more time in prayer and in God’s Word. Play a game, have a competition, make a cute craft to help them memorize Scripture, set goals for their time with God and give out prizes when they reach them. Be creative!

3. Celebrate their victories. When my girls make progress in their spiritual habits, I’ve learned the importance of celebrating with them. Silly little prizes might sometimes be helpful (6th Graders will read their Bibles all day long if there’s candy on the line), but the most powerful reward I think I’ve been able to give my girls over the years has simply been my affirmation. When they share cool stories with me about prayers that God has answered or things in His Word that are challenging them, I’ll often ask them to share those stories in front of our entire small group, too. Inviting students to share their stories is such a simple gesture, but it powerfully communicates, “I’m so proud of you. Keep going.”

So how about you? What have you learned about helping your students develop spiritual habits? 

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Elle Campbell

Elle works in middle school ministry with her husband, Kenny, at The Chapel in Buffalo, New York, where she oversees small groups and volunteer development. When Elle isn’t hanging out with middle school students and their small group leaders, she’s blogging and developing resources for Stuff You Can Use—a site she and Kenny developed to connect student and children’s ministry workers with super helpful, practical, and high-quality ideas and resources.

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