Urging children to open up and start talking honestly about their faith in a group setting can prove difficult. If you are a small group leader, you are probably all too familiar with the silently embarrassed faces you see when opening a question out to the group. The lack of response can be disheartening.
But, when they are run correctly, small groups in church offer an incredible chance for kids to deepen their faith and build a lifelong connection with God. So, if your group is somewhat unreceptive when it comes to sharing their thoughts and feelings, try following these guidelines and you will be well on your way to fostering a safe environment where the conversation flows freely.
When compared to bigger group activities, small groups in church offer the opportunity to nurture a real sense of community between you and the kids. Let them know that this is a safe space for them to share their hopes and dreams, thoughts and fears, and take the sense of community to the next level.
Shy younger children and self-conscious older kids find staying silent throughout moments of discussion the easiest thing to do. That is why it is so important to let them know that their opinion is valued and appreciated in the community setting of your Sunday school. It is much easier to encourage a culture of openness when you create a feeling of safety within the group.
Creating a feeling of consistency can be difficult in small group settings, as each small group leader will almost certainly vary slightly in their leadership styles and teaching tactics. So, as the leader of the kids' ministry at your church, it is vital to establish specific rules for your church volunteers to follow.
Helping each child have the same experiences in their smaller group classes ensures that no kid gets left behind. It is easy enough for them to slip under the radar throughout the large group activities, so keeping a special eye on them in the more intimate moments helps to keep every young member of your church thriving.
As well as consistency across your small groups, consistency within them is valuable. Use some encouraging words for small group leaders to teach your volunteers the power of leading their circle time sessions, in the same way, each week to enhance the sense of security. Following the same routine is another way to keep it feeling like a safe space — most people find that there is comfort in knowing what they can expect.
Inspiring interesting conversations is another excellent way to encourage the children of your ministry to talk about faith in a small group. If they feel like the questions are boring, they will be less inclined to share anything of substance. Sometimes, they believe there is no point in the discussion at hand.
Depending on what sort of age group you are teaching, there is a lot of potential to get creative and insightful with your church's small group discussion topics. Ask your students to relate their own life experiences to the discussion and watch as they light up with enthusiasm at the opportunity to share the personal details of their lives.
One of the best church small group ideas for encouraging lively discussion is to incorporate a piece of media or a story as a starting point. Ask your students how they would have acted in a certain situation, or how they would help turn a storyline around. Sometimes starting your teaching somewhere unusual and somewhere that doesn’t feel to the kids like the regular church "lingo" can really grab their attention. And, if they find it interesting, they will participate enthusiastically. Then, you can always relate the discussion to faith in the end, and they will now have gone on a real journey of thought that will only serve to reinforce their passion for the Lord’s teachings.
Kids in your group will participate in the children's church lessons with much more excitement if they feel as though they have a strong bond with you and the other students. And, when kids genuinely engage with the content at hand, they will build a much stronger connection between the teachings of God and their personal experiences of the world.
Large group sessions are great for high energy information sharing on a mass scale. But, children can feel somewhat disillusioned by the teachings of God and what they feel inside. Their connections with the Lord will truly come to life throughout small group sessions.
Use your small group sessions as a chance to celebrate the personal achievements of each child. Open a door for them to choose what to bring into the discussion with the group. Whether it’s pride over a Bible verse they managed to memorize or being accepted into their school choir, talk about what matters most to them.
Why not combine this with a dedicated part of the session for prayers, too? Hold faith for their successes dear to every member of the group by praying that they achieve their dreams. Cultivating a supportive, caring atmosphere in this way will make your students feel at home, so they eagerly share their thoughts and feelings.