Working with middle school small groups—as powerful as they can be—can also double as the death of the small group leader. How do you get students to sit still and shut up long enough to have decent discussion? How do you get them to give deeper, more personal responses instead of the traditional Sunday School answers they may be accustomed to?

Leading a small group, for some people, can be a huge stretch of personality. For others, like myself, it can be the thing that energizes you. For many, it can give you a boost in your own walk with Christ.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum of SGLs, I’m confident that you can lead a great conversation within your group. Here are five tips that will help you to lead great conversations:

  1. Ask open ended questions. If you are asking questions that students can answer with 1 word, they will. Ask questions that begin with “What do you think about…” or “Tell me more about…”
  2. Actually listen to their answers. If a student speaks in group, but you are only half paying attention (see other post) they will sense that. Really focus on them. Make eye contact.
  3. Ask follow up questions. Don’t be satisfied with the first word out of a student’s mouth. Ask them to explain what they mean by their answer or to tell you a little bit more about that. Sometimes it sounds like you are interrogating, but if you do it genuinely because you want to hear their answer, they will likely open up.
  4. Be OK with some silence. It’s good for students to sit and think about the question or someone else’s answer for a time. This can really allow them to process their thoughts and prepare a response. You don’t have to constantly fill the silence with noise.
  5. You don’t have to have all of the answers. It’s OK to tell students “I don’t know.” This could give you a chance to set up a follow up coffee meeting. It also builds trust, especially with students that may be skeptical. Nobody likes following a know it all.

You can lead a great small group! The most important thing is making sure that your walk with Christ is real and growing. Whether you are an extreme extrovert or an extreme introvert, if you remember these five tips, you will be able to lead great small group discussion.

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Johnathan Baldwin

Johnathan is a student ministries pastor from Indiana who loves youth ministry, sports, summertime, great coffee (depending on the situation, not so great coffee works too), my dog (Marcie), and as of lately a good book. Over the past couple years, Johnathan has felt a growing passion for guiding and empowering leaders to lead students. He believes that if we call people to greatness, they will achieve greatness.

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