Thursday, February 18, 2010

Five Keys to Leading Effective Small Groups

Small groups can be an intimidating endeavor for a new youth worker (usually a volunteer) who's never sat in a circle with five or ten teenagers. It can be awkward and can feel like there is a lot of pressure to change the lives of each student in the short meeting time. It can be even more intimidating when you hand them a 150 page book on how to lead effective small groups. So, this is a crash course in leading small groups that I developed for the small group leaders at our church. We have a lesson (app. 20 mins) where everyone in the group is together and I teach them. Then they break into small groups and discuss questions about the lesson. But regardless of what type of format you use for small groups this would work for any question and answer time. Maybe this will help you and your small group leaders in their ministries.

  1. Try to use open-ended questions that foster discussion. Avoid “yes” or “no” questions. If a yes/no question is unavoidable, ask the question “why” they answered that way. Our goal is not as much to tell them what to think, but to allow them to openly come to a conclusion and discuss it with the group.
  2. Don’t be afraid of silence. In a small group of teenage boys or girls there will be awkward silence. Do not be afraid of it. Many times if a question goes unanswered, the leader will try to answer it for the group and the group remains stagnant. Feel free to give students a chance to think about their answers, even when it gets a little awkward.
  3. Do not feel like you have to discuss every question. If question 1 or 2 spurs lots of discussion feel free to let them wrestle with it and talk. Our goal is to foster spiritual discussions, not to get through every question on the list.
  4. Try to keep the students on task. While you don’t have to get through all the questions, your goal is to see that the students are interacting with one another about spiritual things. So if the discussion is still related to the topic or is somewhat spiritual, let them go with it. Now, when talk turns to that incident that happened in the hall between 5th and 6th period or what girl is interested in what boy, then it’s time to bring it back on track.
  5. Feel free to ask your own questions. The questions in the lesson book or on your handout were created by someone creating the lesson. They are certainly not the complete authority on what things in these passages we should be discussing. So if something comes up and you want to ask a question that is not in the book or on the list, fire away!

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