Digging Deeper

As an SGL of tweens, your few are in a funny season of life.

They are capable of going deeper, yet tend to keep things frivolous when they want to. A 5th grade SGL recently confided in me…

“Sometimes I have to orchestrate my first response. When I ask a question, the first response tends to set the tone. And all other responses fall in line. If the first response is frivolous, the conversation remains there.

But if the first response has depth, the rest follow suit.

So, when I know I want to have a meaningful conversation around something, I prep one of my influencers and invite her to consider the question because she’s the first one I’ll call on in Small Group time.”

Small Groups are a reality your few will continue to navigate even after they exit Children’s Ministry. Learning how to ‘go deeper’ in conversation is a skill you want to impart to them.

And though leading tweens in meaningful conversation can feel like herding cats, I encourage you to press into this season and don’t give up. In fact, here are 3 tips you can use to increase your chances of meaningful dialogue.

Stack Your Deck
Do you have those kids in your group that simply can’t exist in the same space without creating chaos? It doesn’t seem to matter where they sit within the circle, together these kids successfully keep things just left of center.

If you have multiple groups in the tween category, then the answer might be separating them into different groups. If your group is the only option, then you may consider creating micro-groups where the kids are broken into small pockets for discussion. Finding a way to separate kids can help to diffuse their influence on the group.

Leverage your Influencers
There is always ‘that kid’ in your group. The one that seems to set the tone. The one everyone takes their cue from. You might have more than one. And that can be helpful. But there is usually at least one.

Rather than leaving their response to chance, you could shoulder tap that kid and challenge them to really contribute to this conversation. In fact, you think so highly of them, you want them to share first on a particular topic. Then give them the question and allow them time to consider their answer. Leverage their influence by leading them to set the right tone for group discussion.

Lean In
The fun part about your role as their SGL is you’re not their parent. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have expectations for them. In fact, it makes your expectations even more influential.

Just like a coach, the SGL has the unique role of challenging your few to more than what they think they can do. You can lean into them in a way not many people can. So don’t miss it. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you discern the ‘next step’ each of your few need to take. Then challenge them to take that step. Pray for them as they muster the courage to do it. And cheer them on no matter the outcome.


Your few are in a unique season of life where their independence is asserted in what they choose to believe—where they choose to invest their faith. Don’t short-change the significance of your role as you lean in.

Gina McClain December 9th, 2014 0 comments

Watch the Clock

It's the time of year when you and your few have settled into a rhythm.

As an SGL, you've figured out how much time to invest each week to prepare to teach your few.

You've learned how to transition your kids from one segment of the service to the next without losing their attention...much.

You've even discovered ways to make an activity fun but not crazy.

Gina McClain November 3rd, 2014 2 Comments

3 Things Your Kindergarteners Need

It's a brand new school year and you've got a fresh batch of Kindergartners. Many of these little people are adjusting to a new school, a new weekly routine and now a new church experience. The wonder of what they experience may emerge in ways you don't expect.

At my church, our newest Kindergartners come from preschool rooms equipped with tables and chairs. But now

Gina McClain September 16th, 2014 0 comments

Getting the “New Kid” to Open Up

As a Small Group you leader you need to have the ability to get kids to open up to you.  We need to feel pretty confident that we can get any kid, anywhere, in most any circumstance to talk with us.   You may be thinking, "I just wish I could get my kids to STOP talking so much!"  But I'm not talking about the

Jonathan Cliff August 21st, 2014 3 Comments

Confession of a Pastor-Dad

Can I be completely transparent for a minute? I’m a NextGen Pastor at an amazing church where I get to recruit, train and deploy hundreds of volunteers who invest in the lives of kids and students every week. We’ve created an environment where “Leading Small” is the way we do ministry and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the life-change that happens in this kind of

Kenny Conley August 13th, 2014 0 comments

Making a Parent Look Good

I'm a small group leader and a parent. Actually I'm a parent first.

Maybe I should rewrite that first statement.

As a parent, I love nothing more than to see my kid receive attention from adults that mean them well and want to see them succeed. But selfishly, I love a small group leader that can do that while making me look good in front of

Jonathan Cliff August 11th, 2014 2 Comments

The Right Question to Ask

It's the beginning of a new school year and chances are good you are dealing with change.

There's something about rhythms that are comforting.  And when rhythms are thrown off, it's disconcerting.

For most of us, change can be hard.

No matter your season in life, you notice this time a year there are changes. Even driving to work there are more cars on the

Gina McClain August 7th, 2014 0 comments

Tell Your Story

Did you know your church is always searching for more leaders? No matter how big the church you serve, there is always a need for more people to invest in the lives of the kids there. As a small group leader, you play a huge role in this "recruiting" plan.

If your church leader could clone you, they would! You are the one your leaders

Jonathan Cliff July 14th, 2014 0 comments

3 Simple Investments

Do you ever take time to look back and take stock of what’s happening in your life? Like taking inventory, do you stop near the end of one year or the beginning of the next and consider all you’ve walked out in the past 12 months?
The exercise is clarifying. It helps us see where we've struggled, where we’ve conquered and how we've grown.
There’s something

Gina McClain June 12th, 2014 0 comments

Old Hat Syndrome

Effectively leading a small group of kids has many challenges. Challenges you might expect: fitting material into 20-30 minutes, redirecting wild behavior, keeping kids engaged. And challenges you could never anticipate: having to scrap lesson plans to have an impromptu discussion on whether or not pet rats get into heaven, ransacking the snack closet to find something for the kid who skipped breakfast, or the

Guest Writer May 20th, 2014 6 Comments