New Product - Live Curriculum - Doug Fields' 4-Yea

The Live Curriculum available from Simply Youth Ministry is rapidly growing in popularity. At first glance, it looks like another youth curriculum program with a few bells and whistles. However, we’ve recently taken an in-depth look at the program to bring you a Live Curriculum review that will answer your questions and help you make a decision as to whether or not the program is right for your youth ministry.

About Live

First and foremost, we have to note that the Live Curriculum is not something you want to use for your regular group youth service. Instead, the program is designed to streamline either your small group or Sunday school lessons that are usually taught by your youth leaders. That being said, most successful youth ministries have some sort of small group gatherings on a regular basis, and we at Minister to Youth believe that those gatherings are vital to creating solid relationships and foundations in ministry.

Live works off of a 36-week year, assuming that many youth groups postpone small groups during the 12 weeks of summer and during the holidays. However, pastors can organize and edit the lessons as they see fit. The lessons are age-appropriate and are designed to build upon each other over time. Essentially, you can plan your lessons for up to 4 years, or 144 weeks in advance from anywhere, anytime. For an example, SYM’s chart below provides an example of the lessons and the order you can teach them in:

New Product! Live Curriculum – Doug Fields’ 4-Year Small Group Curriculum!

Easy Features

A purchase of Live comes with one to two years of access to the online tool where you set up what your leaders see. Each leader can log-in with permissions to view your customizable master calendar, view the lesson plan for the week, and view any notes you place in the leader’s news feed. From the dashboard, you can also send out pre-written parent emails about the week’s topic, and if you are a Simply TXT user, that program is fully integrated with the Live Curriculum as well, allowing you to effectively send out reminders to your leaders and students.


We have to say, this is our favorite feature about the Live Curriculum. Simply Youth Ministry recently released an incredibly cool iPhone and iPad app that finally brings youth ministry into today’s technology. You can view entire lessons on your screen without carrying around your bulky laptop. Oh, and did we mention that this app is FREE? We’ve provided screen shots below. Oh, and if you aren’t an iPhone or iPad owner, the Live Curriculum is soon to launch an Android app as well.

iPhone iTouch Log-In Screen


The fine people over at Simply Youth Ministry do more than help youth pastors minister to students – they also minister to youth pastors. They have research that suggests that the connectivity and fluidity of the Live Curriculum will improve a youth pastor’s effectiveness by more than 73 percent. And it makes sense too; having a 6-year road map of lessons gives pastors more time for what’s important – connecting with students.


There is nothing worse than feeling tied down to a curriculum or series that you don’t really want to teach or you don’t feel is a good fit for your youth ministry. We like that the Live Curriculum offers both junior high and high school options to choose from, and that the lessons are editable to your discretion. For an example of how to edit a lesson, you can watch the following demonstration:

YouTube Preview Image


Our final conclusion of the Live Curriculum is very positive. Though we can think of a few things to improve upon (for example, we think leaders should have access to the online tool for the length of their Live Curriculum usage), we found few things to deter us from recommending the program to youth pastors. We even consider the $249 and $499 prices to be quite modest considering what’s included…all of the organization and full lesson plans come out to less than $3.50 per lesson. To us, $3.50 is worth about 7 minutes of our time on a good day, so unless you find it easy to write a quality lesson plan and organize it for your leaders in 7 minutes or less, chances are it’s a good value for you too. And better yet, you don’t have to put together a small group lesson for 2 to 4 years.

To purchase Live Curriculum, or try it for FREE, choose which version you want to learn more about below:

High School Live Curriculum

Jr High Live Curriculum


Once you have your small groups established, it is important to fine tune the ministry.  In order to have successful small groups ministry, you have to change your way of thinking. There is a strong tendency to think of a youth ministry as a whole to be like a tree in which the various components of it such as small groups represent the branches. A better way to think of it would be as a house in which leaders create the foundation, but small groups and discipleship are the mortar that holds it all together. (Okay, maybe that was a cheesy analogy, but it makes the point.) I’ll tell you why I believe this part of ministry is so important.
Small Groups From Start to Finish

The main youth service is an excellent time for kids to learn and listen. Small groups is the time for them to talk and YOU listen. Curriculum for small groups should encourage teens to  talk and discuss. If your teachers and leaders are prepared to listen and open the group to true discussion, kids can not only discuss their spiritual growth and problems, but they can also receive more one on one time to deal with it.
Small Group Curriculum Bundle

Here’s another one for you: Kids in small groups minister to other kids. That’s right, they are inadvertently ministering to each other in a relaxed environment and don’t even realize it. If your dream is for your teenagers to ultimately become witnesses in their schools, jobs and families, it helps if they have a little experience to build upon. It builds their confidence in themselves, and will spark healthy conversation among each of them during their down time.

Lastly, small groups build unity.  When kids mingle with each other on a regular basis outside of church, they create a bond that is hard to abandon. Use ice breakers and games to get the kids talking to each other. This unity will ultimately carry over into the main services and outreaches, creating a foundation for growth.


  • Use icebreakers
  • Help start conversations among kids
  • Learn to listen
  • Look at kids while they are speaking and do not rush them
  • Ask questions to encourage openess
  • Never tell someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way

Small Groups From Start to Finish

Help! I'm a Small Group Leader


For a long time, youth ministry small groups have  been the preferred choice of youth ministers for launching a discipleship program. This is understandable as the format seems to work and it doesn’t “feel” like discipleship class. Small groups are relatively easy to conduct, but they require a lot of organization and preparation.

    • Decide how you want to separate teens into groups – some assign homes by gender or age. Others use host homes as a way to provide different “levels” of youth discipleship and mentoring. Others may allow teens to choose their small group, though this can cause attendance problems and encourage the formation of cliques. (Remember, it is good to encourage teenagers to get to know other kids in the group in order to build unity.)
    • Recruit hosts. For some, this is the most difficult task of them all. You may choose to have small groups in the same homes each month, or if you are blessed with enough volunteers, you may be able to rotate homes to keep things intersting. Both options work fine, but the latter option allows you to hold more meetings if necessary. You do NOT want to have small groups in the youth pastor’s home if possible. (I’ll tell you why in a minute).
    • Find teachers. That’s right…not every host wants to lead a small group. Your teacher is responsible for the logistics of the class. If you prefer, you can supply them with curriculum. For seasoned teachers, you may assign a topic and let them run with it.

Help! I’m a Small Group Leader

    • Have food. I don’t care how spiritual your teens are, it takes a lot to get them out of their pajamas, in their car and across town on a Saturday or Sunday evening. Food helps. This can either be provided by the host home or supplied by the youth budget.
    • Set a time and stick to it, especially on school nights and for the junior highers that don’t drive. Nothing makes a parent grumpier than having to weight thirty minutes past pickup time to get their kid. (Don’t act like you don’t know that…we’ve all done it.) This isn’t to say that kids cannot stay a little late. Just make sure that the teacher enforces the time in respect for the host home.  (TIP:  make sure you have plenty of hangout time INCLUDED in the time, whether that be the beginning or the end. Teens will feel cheated if you don’t, plus, it is kind of part of that whole unity thing to. )
    • Promote. As many leaders as possible need to be on board with the youth ministry’s small groups. Ask the media pastor to throw a slide up in the main sanctuary, or even better, make a promotional video. The more excitement that surrounds a start up ministry, the better.
    • Reward faithfulness. Consider offering an incentive for those youth who complete a certain number of weeks in discipleship courses. This could be a youth ministry t-shirt, a discount on the next youth trip, or a special party.

99 Thoughts for Small Groups Leaders – Physical

  • Show your support. Remember earlier when I said to be sure and find alternate locations for small groups than in your home? That is because if the youth pastor is hosting one of five small groups, he cannot show his support for the others.  And if the kids really like you, they may feel that you are playing favorites with the kids in your group, thus resulting in a small groups rebellion. (Okay, maybe that was a little farfetched, but you get the drift.)