It’s a typical Wednesday night. You have your small group of six students, your Bible, and the Lead Small app cued up.

You are unstoppable.
You are a small group leader.
You are about to lead the best middle school small group discussion there ever was.
You do happy crappys.
You run through all of the questions and make every student answer (because, duh, you’re a great SGL).
And it all ends on a great note.

But then you leave, and somewhere between the church and home, you come to the conclusion that your small group time was actually an utter failure. You start making things up in your mind, and eventually you are convinced that you are the worst small group leader that ever existed.


I had a coffee conversation with Devin, a fellow SGL recently. It was your typical coffee check-in. You know, the usual questions, “How’s your group going?” and “What’s working for you?” It was in this meeting that Devin dropped one of the biggest truth bombs I’ve ever received about leading a small group of teenagers.

(Also, can I just tell you that Devin is a sophomore in high school. He leads a group of 7th grade boys and has so much passion and enthusiasm. If you are not empowering high school students to not only serve, but to lead as well, go do that right now.)

In our conversation, Devin introduced me to what he calls the 70/30 Rule. Here it is: the goal is to lead your students to stay on topic for 30% of the time. If you are able to do that, it’s a win. That may seem like a low number to many of you, but remember that we are talking about middle school boys.

The 70% is where the fun comes in. Devin’s goal is to lead his students to 30% talk about the topic from the teaching that night. His next goal is to keep consistent, cohesive conversation for the other 70% of the time. He is willing to talk about anything during this time. The theory is that if the students will talk about anything as a group, they are connecting, and it’s a win.

The 70/30 Rule, or as I call it, the Devin Rule is a practical way to gauge your small group time. Continue guiding your students in intentional, God-centered conversation, but know that (especially if you have middle school boys) you may not always stay on topic and that’s OK. If you can get 30% guided, on topic conversation, that’s a win!

This specific gauge may not necessarily work for you. What works for some may not work for others. And that’s okay. The point is, if your few aren’t spending 100% of the time talking about what was taught in large group, you’re not failing at your job. Small groups are about connection. Sometimes, that connection will happen during the deep faith talks. And sometimes, it’ll happen during conversations about whatever it is middle schoolers find interesting that day hour. Find your own 70/30 rule, a balance of God talk and whatever talk, and use it to gauge your small group time!

Written by Johnathan Baldwin
Jr. High and Sports Pastor

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Johnathan Baldwin

Johnathan is a student ministries pastor from Indiana who loves youth ministry, sports, summertime, great coffee (depending on the situation, not so great coffee works too), my dog (Marcie), and as of lately a good book. Over the past couple years, Johnathan has felt a growing passion for guiding and empowering leaders to lead students. He believes that if we call people to greatness, they will achieve greatness.

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