If you’re a typical small group leader, you are probably always trying to come up with ways to make your students feel more comfortable—to create better conversation and improve the group’s dynamic. Maybe you’ve tried a baton to encourage taking turns talking or you start each group by “sealing the circle of trust”. But you’re still—for reasons unknown to you—getting eye rolls and blank stares. So while it’s not always easy to implement effective methods of opening teens up, we should all be aware of a few quite effective ways of shutting them down—of immediately putting your group on the defense. And maybe if we all start by avoiding these leadership methods, we could accidently stumble into a more open and honest group dynamic. 

So, what are three sure-fire ways to create a defensive atmosphere?

1. Ask awkward Jesus questions. There’s nothing like asking the new kid to recite his top 10 favorite Bible verses…in front of everybody else in the group or drilling that quiet student about his theological beliefs about vegetarianism. Obviously most teens can easily pull these answers out of their cargo pocket, but what if this kid can’t? (Side note: apparently cargo shorts are out—my guys make fun of me every time I wear them. Every. Single. Time.)

2. Hit them in the face with Bible verses! So one of your kids is struggling with jealously? Just remind him that if he knew his Bible well enough, it wouldn’t be an issue! Obviously the topic of jealousy is dealt with in Leviticus 11. (Confession: Off the top of my head, I actually have no clue what Leviticus 11 is about. Don’t judge me. That’s in the Bible).

3. Tell them you didn’t struggle with (fill in the blank) in high school, so why are they? Let’s all be honest. There’s an 86% chance you didn’t struggle with __________ in high school because, well, you were a nerd. You didn’t drink at that party because you weren’t invited. You didn’t struggle physically with girls because they thought you were weird & ugly. Of course this isn’t true for 14% of you, but I’m just playing the odds.

These are just three of dozens of great ways to put teens on the defense! What are some other ways you have found to shut down an open and safe dynamic? 

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