Connecting Outside Small Groups

Early Childhood through 3rd grade leaders should only be spending time with their small groups at regular group meeting times and during scheduled events.

When a student is in 4th grade, 5th grade, Middle School or High School we’ve found a great way we can get to know students and build trust is hanging out with them outside of a designated meeting time at church. We want to equip you to be safe in your time with students outside of group meetings, and this will also include building trust with parents.

It is important to remember that 4th & 5th grade is when these ideas are introduced and should be slowly layered in throughout Middle School and High School to build trust with the parents. Our hope is that, by 12th grade, parents are confident that their child is safe with a trusted adult of the same gender outside of campus because of the consistency of following these steps.


NOTE: You may be invited into a home by parents into a shared family experience, such as a meal or vacation, or hired as a babysitter. These independent interactions are between you and the parents; Arbor Road Church is not responsible or liable for these times together.

Distinction Between 4th & 5th Grade vs. Middle School & High School

If you are a leader in the 4th & 5th grade ministry, we want to be clear with appropriate relationships between leaders and students. We want to continue to protect the students in our ministry as they mature and grow, as well as protect you as a leader. Please be sure to abide by these guidelines for spending time with the students in your small group.

On Campus

  • On campus events with students in 4th or 5th grade should not consist of one leader with one student
  • There must be at least two leaders present
  • Parents must drop off and pick up their students

Off Campus

  • Off-campus events with students in 4th or 5th grade should not consist of one leader with one student
  • There must be at least one parent present who is not a small group leader
  • Parents must drop off and pick up their students

Initiate Relationship with Parents

  • Since our role in youth ministry is to partner with parents, it is important to get to know the parents of your student. Get into contact with the parent and ask if it is okay to hang out with their child.
  • It is typically a good idea for first time hang outs with students to be in groups
    • This will help the parents of the students get to know you
    • This will also help you as a leader to build trust and relationship with the families of the students in your small group

Here are some best practices for appropriate contact with your students’ parents:

  1. Get contact info from the student: Before you commit to a plan, ask your student(s) for their parent’s phone number so that you can give them a call to set this up
  2. Introduce yourself: In your phone call communicate to them who you are (Name, what you are involved in outside of church, your role in their student’s experience at church)
    • If the parent seems unclear on your role at church, it may be helpful to relate your role to the big brother/big sister program
  3. Share ideas: Give the bottom line about spending time with their student and then go into the details: who, what, where, when (date & times)
  4. Invite input: Make sure to speak with them about transportation (they may want to drive their student or they may feel comfortable with you driving them) and ask if they’d like you to text them when the student is dropped off at the end of the event
  5. Ask permission: Empower them as parents to decide what’s best for their student and ensure they know you will support their decision, whatever it may be
  6. Set up future contact: As your first interaction with the parent, ask them if they would prefer to communicate through a phone call, text message, or other form of communication when you need to get in contact with them
  7. Confirm via text: This is great for clarity so they have all the details for this event and your contact information
  8. Repeat: You will repeat these basic steps but in time, as the parents communicate trust and you’ve established a rapport, it will be done without introduction and with basic info

Activity Ideas

If you need help thinking of ideas for meeting with a student, here is a list of activities you may be interested in. Be sure to stick to ideas that you both enjoy and are appropriate for your student’s age and interests.


Group Ideas

  • Play sports
  • Go on a hike together
  • Go to a sporting event
  • Go to an art class together
  • Go to a restaurant together

One-on-one Ideas

  • Sports (Play a sport with your student and ask questions about their life)
  • Invite the student into weekly rhythms of your life (eating, exercising, grocery shopping, etc.)
  • Play a game together
  • Visit a museum together
  • Study a book of the Bible or a Christian book together
  • Have dinner with their family
  • Grab coffee, lunch, dinner, dessert

No matter what you are doing, get to know your student(s)

Listen reflectively; a student will feel known and heard when they hear you reflect back to them some of the things they are saying

Even if your meeting is not focused on talking about deep things, students will feel cared for when you spend time with them

They will start to create a stronger bond of trust as you reveal to them your life outside of church, and this may lead to great ministry opportunities in the future