Group Building: Becoming One (Achieving Unity)
A question often asked is, “How can we unify our group?” Whether you encounter aggressive boys or drama among the girls, there are many obstacles along the path toward mutual respect and unity.
There are lots of reasons for this. Teenagers are a confused, searching, insecure group of people. This can be true for a variety of reasons: adolescent brain development, hormonal changes, social pressures, and problems at home are just a few. When you get a group of teenagers together it's like gathering a bunch of zoo animals up and putting them in one pen. You've got predators, cuddly bears, sneaky reptiles, and clueless monkeys--it can be a mess! You'll have kids making fun of each other, people being mean, and all the rest. In the chaos that ensues, it's hard to get the group to pay attention. In other words, unity can be a hard thing to achieve, as you've experienced. But don't lose heart! There are several things you can try to establish common purpose in any group.
1. Have One Classroom Rule--Respect.
If students don't respect you, each other, your space, and ultimately, Jesus--they have to leave. If you meet on Sunday morning and their parents are present when they break the rule, they have to go sit with their parents. This may sound harsh, and at some level it is. But you have to have control of your class. Make sure everyone knows the rule, can repeat the rule, and then enforce the rule. You might have to make an example of one kid, but in time this usually cuts down on rude behavior. Of course, welcome the student back the next time you meet, but the same rule applies each meeting. Perhaps you can even talk to him or her between meetings to reinforce the rule and his or her importance to you.
Don't lose sight of the spiritual warfare side of things. Satan does not want your group to grow, to love each other, and to be changed. Pray that God will--by the power of His Holy Spirit--bring unity and lasting change to your teens.
Teach about unity. Talk about what it means to be kind to one another and respectful of God's Word. Challenge students to practice it. Challenge them not to say one mean thing the entire time they're together--no dirty looks, eye rolling, etc, either. If they succeed, provide a simple reward. Then challenge them again. Try passages like 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, especially v. 32.
4. Rally them Around a Cause
Is there something that they passionately believe in that you could unify them around? Perhaps there's a ministry that could be done to help the homeless in your area or the elderly in your congregation. Helping them get their eyes off themselves is an important step in gaining unity. You might look up one day and realize that you've achieved some commonality you didn't have before.
5. Do Team Building
There are a variety of team building exercises that you can do to inspire participation and unity. A lot of times our Group Building activities at the beginning of all our lessons fit this bill. Hundreds more are available online.
You will not stumble upon unity accidentally. And don’t be discouraged—building it up takes time. But by providing fundamental expectations, enforcing the rule of respect, and fostering an atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect, it can be achieved!