Training Tools

My “2 Cents” on Small Groups

Dear Small Group Leaders,

Every time we speak to kids they have the opportunity to hear the truth. That is, if they’re listening.

How do we know if they’re listening?

How can we give them an opportunity to really take in what we’re saying, chew on it a little bit and digest it?

Don’t get me wrong—I love the “speaking” venue. But I usually don’t let it end there. Then comes the most important part. I want to give them an opportunity to think about it and discuss it. I want them to hear what others have to say about it. I want them to have a chance to respond or ask questions about the subject matter.

I usually provide all this in a format they like—small groups.

Today’s kids love to just hang out with each other and talk. Whether chatting, texting, emailing, talking on their cell phones, or just “kicking it” with each other… they love talking, and they all want to be heard. Small groups are an opportunity to hear them. Sure, we’ll throw out some well placed questions and facilitate the direction of the conversation, but this is their time to talk—their time to be heard. This is an arena that they talk approximately 80 percent of the time, we talk just 20 percent.

The term “small groups” can mean a lot of different things in different venues. In one youth group they might be an “assigned” group of kids that meet regulary at a house or off-campus location. In other groups, small groups may just be a format they use to help kids process the learning they just received. The group leader might just say “everyone break up into groups of 5 to 10 kids!” when it’s discussion time.

I’m not here to tell you what type of small groups to facilitate, I just recommend using them in some shape or form each week for discussion.

Small groups come in different sizes. I prefer less than 10 kids in a group. I think the optimum group size is 5- 8 kids per group.

For even greater detail about the different types of small groups and how to run a small group, check out this other article on our web site. (CLICK HERE)

New Small Group Questions Format:
If you’ve been using all the free resources on our web site for long, you’ve probably noticed that we usually provide small group questions with most of our resources. Whether it’s the OBJECT LESSONS or OUTREACH AGENDAS on our CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS page, or the discussion starters on our MOVIE CLIP IDEAS page, you’ll usually see small group questions to help kids process the information we’re teaching.

I’ll be the first to admit that our resources have been developing and improving over the years. Some of our older resources don’t include any small group questions or wrap up talks. But as our ministry to you has grown, so has the quality of our resources. And in the recent years we’ve been providing even better small group discussion questions and wrap up talks.

This year we have started a new format for small group questions. In these small group questions we will usually start with a couple of fun, easy questions that make it easy for kids to open up. Typical small groups contain some kids that will share if asked, some kids that really struggle opening up in front of a group, and that one kid who won’t shut up! This format will help us limit the time of the chatty kid, and help the shy kid open up just a bit.

Our goal is to get the kids used to each of them taking turns around the circle and sharing. The opening questions will start in that format—something like, “Everybody share your name and your favorite kind of pizza.” I usually will throw out this question and then say, “I’ll start, then we’ll go around the circle.” I share first, then I look to the person to my left, prompting them that it’s their turn.

The idea is that kids will get used to the fact that they have an opportunity to share their own “2 cents” about each issue. If we start with easy questions about their favorite food or movie, this shows them that the format isn’t scary. It’s something even the shy kid can do. And the chatty kid doesn’t monopolize the time because every body gets a turn.

In our new small group question format, we’ll start off each question with one of these three words or phrases:

  • AROUND THE CIRCLE: This is when you should give everyone an opportunity to answer the question around the circle.
  • A FEW OF YOU: This is when the question doesn’t require everyone to share, but it’s nice to get a few different opinions or voices of input.
  • SOMEBODY: This is usually a quick easy answer that only requires a simple, quick response.

Look for each of the above cues at the beginning of each question so you know how to facilitate the discussion.

Small Group Rules:
If you’ve been leading a small group for a while, you know how frustrating it is when the group is out of control. I like to start off my first small group time with one rule. I get them to agree to it. I usually say it something like this: “This is your time. I want to be able to hear from you without anyone else interupting. So we have one simple rule: RESPECT. That’s it. Nothing else. In this group we respect each other by not interupting, not talking while someone else is talking, and respecting other peoples opinions. Respect doesn’t end in this group time. It goes outside this group and outside this cabin. We don’t go telling others what someone shared inside this group. Does everyone agree with this one rule?” (I usually look around the group and look at each member to get a visual nod.)

If kids interupt or start joking out of turn- don’t hesitate to stop the group for a second and say something like, “Kierra, you agreed with the one rule we have in this group, didn’t you?” (And then refrain from yelling, “THEN SHUT YOUR BIG YAPPER!”) Then simply proceed with whoever’s turn it was. “As you were saying Christy?”

That’s it. The ball is in your court. I hope these small tidbits are a help as you facilitate your small group. Pray that God will use this time.

In His Grip,

Jonathan McKee


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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