Communication: Organizing Groups for Discussion
A lot of us have spent time leading groups of students that are small. In fact, you might not even think that you need to separate your group. However, once a group gets above about 4-5, participants will have a much harder time feeling comfortable joining the discussion.
There may be times during your lesson--or entire sessions-- where it is best to limit the size of your groups intentionally. Moreover, organizing these groups with certain criteria may prove a wise move to maximize the impact of these discussions. Here are a few things to consider:
Chances are no matter how small your group is you have a mix of guys and gals. Certain topics--or, again, entire lessons--might sometimes call for gender specific conversation. It’s okay if it’s just a couple people. Two boys with an adult leader are going to have more positive conversation than one boy will with eight other groups. The size of the group is secondary to how safe they feel in it.
As your group grows, it may make sense to split them up according to their age. Perhaps this division is simply junior high and high school, or maybe it’s more specific (a 7th grade group, an 8th grade group, a 9th grade group, etc.). It is certainly true that maturity levels vary based on age. A senior in high school might have a hard time putting up with a 7th grader’s immaturity every week, but in a group of people similar in age, he or she may thrive.
If your group is large enough, you can divide your group based on interests. Put people who love music in the same group, teens who like nature in the same group, and excellent students in the same group. This will allow them to draw from their common experiences to bring to life the content of the lesson. It may also allow them to make some cool connections.
Don’t use people’s connections against them. Allow students who are friends outside of church to stay friends when they’re there. Sometimes well-meaning youth workers peel friends apart in the name of not being clique-ish. While you want to make sure no packs of kids are ever hateful or hurtful to kids not in their group of friends, it’s natural and normal for people to gravitate towards those with whom they have grown up. If you don’t think that’s true, think of your own life and connections. If you put kids in groups where they are uncomfortable, don’t expect much out of that group. If you put kids in groups where they are sharing with people that they already share everything with, chances are you’ll have some very powerful moments.
Gender specific, age similarities, common interests, and pre-existing friendships: four ways to divide your group to make it a more impact-filled time of discussion and sharing. Next time you say, “okay, let’s split up into groups…” don’t do it without thinking. Make the most of that time by forming the groups in the wisest way possible.