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.

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Gina is the Children’s Pastor at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Gina is driven by the idea of equipping, encouraging & empowering parents for the journey of teaching their kids to love and be loved by Jesus. Based upon her experience as a mom, she identifies with the everyday challenges of parenting. Gina and her husband, Kyle, have three kids, Keegan, Josie and Connor.

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