The following is part of the on the go training that I’ve begun to give our adult leaders in our youth ministry. The principles should be transferrable to other youth ministries with small group programs.
I Heart Mixtapes
Remember tapes? Those little plastic boxes with ribbon that threatened to get tangled in your cassette player? Those were the days to be a music aficionado. People would craft beautiful mixtapes oriented around a particular theme, like “summer memories” or “the road trip.” There was heart and soul in the mixtape.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a skip feature. Oh, you could “fast”-forward through a particular track that you didn’t like. But you had to adjust your definition of “fast” and make sure you didn’t go too far and miss the track you did want to listen to. Although some of the charm of music died with the mixtape, at least with CDs and MP3s you can skip songs.
When you’re leading a small group discussion, it’s important to remember the “skip feature.” Each group is different and that means each group’s needs and responses will vary. Sometimes a group will respond beautifully to the questions you pose. And sometimes you’ll get some silence before a response.
But if it just seems like the question is falling flat, that your teens aren’t resonating with it, skip it. Regroup. This is why leading small groups is an art. When it comes to certain questions, you just have to know when to fold.
If you find yourself in a dialogue-standstill, don’t be afraid to press the skip button and move on to a more helpful question. Sometimes the group struggles to connect. Sometimes the questions are bad. But as you set the pace of discussion, you’ll find at least a few questions that draw out dialogue.