Communicating with Clarity—USE SMALL GROUP TIME

Posted on: 06/10/11 1:32 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s been fun writing about speaking in this blog for the last couple of weeks. The subject has definitely invited some interesting discussion, most of the “heat” surrounding the topic of  the “length” of our talks.
For those of you who have missed the last few weeks, we’re talking about how to communicate to teenagers in a way that’s memorable and clear. So far, after introducing the subject, I’ve written spedifically about:
One question that has surfaced in the blog comments numerous times reveals the need to address today’s subject. People keep asking me, “What do we do if we aren’t good communicators?” I’ve addressed the answer to this question a little bit in my blog about “USING THE STORY,” because stories (one story, one scripture and one point) are powerful tools that most people can use with success. I also addressed the answer in my blog about USING GIFTED COMMUNICATORS, talking about how to identify and develop gifted communicators in your ministry. And TALKING SHORTER never hurt anyone.
But today I want to bring up another subject that I think is probably one of the most effective tools for any youth worker who has a message to communicate, and that is the use of small group time.
The average youth group in America has just over a dozen young people and is led by a volunteer. Some of these volunteers aren’t gifted communicators…. and that’s okay. Small groups don’t require leaders who can deliver dynamic expository sermons. They actually require a skill that most people find even more difficult to do: the ability to listen!
Small group leading should probably be called “small group facilitating.” Because the key to small group time is to get kids talking and leaders listening.
I speak at a dozen or more camps each year. Many of these camps have a small group time after I am finished speaking. The leader of the camp will always ask me to provide some discussion questions for the “cabin leaders” or “counselors.” It’s fun to walk around after my talk and peek in on these small group times.
Guess what I observe over 90% of the time?
Leaders talking, and kids listening.
Actually… let me rephrase my observation: Leaders blabbing on and on… and kids tuning out, wishing they were somewhere else.
What a wasted opportunity.
True small group time should always include the following:
1.       Good questions that stimulate conversation and help kids discover truth.
2.       A leader that knows how to ask questions… and shut up! (Sorry for using the “s-word.”)
Let me go back to that question that has been asked multiple times in the last couple weeks. “Jonathan, what do we do if we’re not a good communicator?”
My answer: Introduce a subject with some sort of discussion provoker, then divide to small groups with trained leaders.
Let me give you some help with this.
It doesn’t matter if your gift isn’t communication (Maybe you’re the only leader who actually shows up!), just kick off the discussion with something that gets their attention, and divide to small groups.
Let’s take a peek at what this looks like.
Our web site has a ton of these that are readymade for youth leaders. Jump on and access that dropdown menu on the top left hand side of the page where it says FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS. From that dropdown menu you’ll see a ton of great free resources that not only provide you with good discussion provokers, they also provide you with really good small group questions, scripture, and wrap ups. Take a peek.
From that dropdown menu you’ll see MUSIC DISCUSSIONS and MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS. Both these pages use either music or movie clips to get kids attention. Then, they provide the transition statement you can use as you divide your kids into small groups (and everything you’ll need once you get them there). We also have a page from that same dropdown menu titled CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS. That page has numerous subpages, most of which provide discussion provokers and/or small group questions. All these free resources are great for provoking discussion and dividing to small groups.
Life is full of moments that might be good discussion starters. I remember watching a lady digging through the garbage of a fast food restaurant for her keys, only to later find them in her back pocket. I thought to myself, “That’s a discussion starter if I’ve ever seen one!” Think about it.
          Are you ever looking for the right thing in all the wrong places?
          What kind of garbage are you digging through on your quest for answers?
So if you’re not a naturally gifted communicator, just use a discussion provoker and divide to small groups. But then, make sure you…
Our web site can help you in this area as well with our free training tools. Jump on and access that next dropdown menu at the top of the page—the one that says ARTICLE & FREE TRAINING. From that dropdown menu, access the FREE TRAINING TOOLS page and then click on HELP MY LEADERS. On that page you’ll see a handful of free ppt presentations we provide for free to help you teach your leaders about some of the essentials of youth ministry. Select the training titled, The DNA of Healthy Small Groups. This ppt training will help your leaders learn the essentials of leading a small group.
Use a tool like this to teach your leaders to LISTEN way more than they talk.
Small groups can be a great tool for anyone, dynamic communicator or not.
Why do you think I provided ready-made small group questions at the end of every one of the talks in my book 10-Minute Talks?