Let’s face it. The beginning of small group can be awkward.

One by one, your kids or students come in, and they sit down around you. They might stare at your for a moment. And you probably some variation of the same questions I ask . . . every week.

“How was your week?”

Or “Did you do anything fun last weekend?”

Or “So . . . what’s up?”

With younger kids, these questions are so general and nebulous that you’re risking being met with blank looks. If you’re lucky, you might get an ‘Umm—.’ More often than, you’ll get an ‘I can’t remember.’

With older students, these general questions may wind up launching a conversation composed of so many answers, side trails, and stories that you may have a hard time leading your few back to the lesson and small group questions.

So here’s my question for you.

What if we started asking better questions? The problem isn’t that we ask start off group time with questions. The problem is the kind of questions we start off with. I’m talking about questions that are not only engaging for the kids or students in your group but also help YOU get to know each of them on a new level.

Questions that let them know you’re listening when they share about what’s going on in school or home or with their friends.
Questions that provoke real conversation and shared experiences.
Questions that lead to ‘Whoa, cool! Me too’ moments in the group.
Questions that really get down to the core issues kids are dealing with.
Questions that bring to light to things they’re dealing with or wondering. Questions that helped you see how each child reasons a little bit differently.

Maybe questions like . . .

“Unicorns—real or fake? Explain your view.”

“How did that thing go with your friend? The one you mentioned last week.’

“Would you rather have a robot or a helpful monkey?”

“How are you guys feeling about the semester getting ready to end?”

“What’s something you would never eat with cheese?”

Okay, so maybe some of these questions aren’t exactly the core discussion questions of your group time.

But remember that the first couple minutes of group are crucial. In just the first three minutes, you have a unique window of time. And that time can set up the group conversation to be forced and (probably) boring. Or it can be a fun, engaging, and (most importantly) safe place for them to use their voice, share their thoughts, and be heard by people who are for them.

Yes, the questions are . . .
silly
specific
funny
personal
weird
and they probably won’t lead anyone to a question of faith and salvation.

But these questions will . . .
open up the quiet kid
remind them that you listen to them AND remember what they say
make group fun right away
communicate that you know what’s going on in their world
and help you get to know your few.

Fun over time makes a friendship grow deeper. Open communication cements relationships. So before you go deep with your few, try to start by having fun instead.

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Afton Phillips

Afton is on the Orange staff as the Lead Small director, but more importantly leads a small group of 2nd graders every Sunday. She was on church staff for three years before that in the Elementary world, and graduated with a degree in Children's Ministry. If you want to be her best friend, all you have to do is buy her a black coffee and let her wear a tiara all day. She strongly believes tulle skirts are every day wear and her favorite place is any giant used book store.

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