7 Tips to Improve Your Small-Group Discussions with Kids
Maximizing small group times with kids
If we are truly going to support parents in the ministry to children, then we must ensure that the small-group times are maximized. If we look closely at our ministries, it’s the small group, highly-relational times that have the biggest potential for making a long-term impact.
Below are a few tips that will help you coach your small-group leaders as they lead discussion times.
- Know their name: The sooner you can learn a child’s name and call them by it, the better. Many security check-in tags now include the child’s first name, but if you can use their name without the help of a tag, you are in a good spot to connect with a child and make a positive impression on the parents.
- Know the backstory: Every child has a backstory. Though they may only have 8 or 10 years of history to recount, they have a story. The more you take time to know each child as an individual, the more you are likely to be able to make a lasting impact. Knowing their backstory takes time, and you’ll likely not get a full picture of it in one conversation. But pay attention over time, look for opportunities to discover what their home-life is like, ask about the number of siblings, their favorite childhood memory, how many places they’ve lived, etc. The more you know about what brought them to the point where they are today, the further you can take them.
- Ask the right questions: The importance of the right kind of question cannot be overstated. In a small-group time, asking kids to recount a main point or share with you their current level of Bible knowledge is good. But to really make a small-group discussion go further, consider the following questions to add to your tool kit:
- What did this story teach us about God?
- In what ways does that knowledge help you today?
- How could you share this information with a friend or family member?
- Put away technology: It’s really hard to convince kids they are important if there is a screen in front of your face. Even though many of the small-group discussion questions could be read from a smartphone or tablet, having a printed set of questions can help the leader focus on the children rather than appearing to be distracted by whatever is on the device.
- Implement a pair share: When asking a question but requiring kids to raise their hands before you select one or two to respond, you minimize the number of kids who are fully processing the answer and have their minds engaged. However, by dividing the group into clusters of two or three children to ask the question, it immediately engages every mind in the room. I’ve accomplished this in small and large groups and found it to be a very effective method. Simply instruct kids to get into clusters and each go around to respond to the question. Give them a time limit (usually around a minute), say “Go” and let them talk. After the time is up, have them bring their attention back to you and continue by getting feedback from a few.
- Listen intently: After using the pair share (or at any time when a child is talking), be sure to model a focus on who is speaking and resist the temptation to interrupt the child for any reason. If another child is being disruptive during the response, correct that child after the child who was speaking has completed his/her answer.
- Use reflective listening: Reflective listening is an important step and can be mastered immediately. The leader simply restates the child’s answer for the group in a short summary. This helps build confidence in the child and ensures that the entire group has heard the response.
Our hope is that by following some of these simple tips, leaders will be able to help faith grow deep in the hearts of every child.