Group Building: Faces in the Crowd
In your group, you have a wide variety of kids. Knowing how to manage these differences is important for successful group discussion.
There are shy kids, loud kids, kids who are comfortable talking, and kids who aren't. Being aware of your group dynamic, indentifying the general category each student falls into, and interacting with each student based on their own unique personality is key to having a successful group discussion. Below are some basic distinguishing characteristics of students that are probably present in YOUR group.
A. The Look-at-Me Kid
There are always kids who want to be the center of attention. They’ll change the subject abruptly, they’ll burp at a serious moment, they’ll have a story for every point you try and make. They need attention, and you should give it to them in positive ways that don’t de-rail your overall purpose. Helping the look-at-me kid feel involved is important, but they’re not the only one in the group, so don’t let them dominate. Talk to them privately, affirm their participation, and then agree that they can be really helpful by making sure they are on track with where you, the teacher, are headed.
B. The Quiet Kid
Some kids, for whatever reason, freeze in front of people—even a small group. If you don’t ask them a question during your meeting (and sometimes even if you do!), they won’t talk the entire time. Try to pull this kid early in the lesson by asking a question which you require everyone to give a one-word answer for. Sometimes this small participation builds confidence and helps him or her chime in later, too.
C. The Argumentative Kid
Disagreement should be welcome among your students as they wrestle with new and difficult ideas about the Scripture, but some kids take it to a new level. These kids think they know everything, and want to demonstrate it by being the expert and arguing every side to each point. One creative way to reel this type of kid in is by challenging them to teach a portion of or an entire lesson. This will allow them to get a feel for what it’s like to sit in the leader’s chair—and it just might give them some perspective. Never discourage healthy debate, but don’t let an argumentative kid run the show uninvited.
D. The Follow-the-Leader Kid
This type of student isn’t shy, they’re just incapable of having an original thought. They toss and turn with the opinion of the group, and if there’s a disagreement they see both sides. You could be talking about forgiveness and they’ll tell a story when they had to forgive. Then you could turn right around and condemn forgiveness as wrong (which it’s NOT), and they’d totally agree. Challenge this archetype with “why” questions. Urge them to think for themselves. Don’t just allow them to agree—ask them why they agree. This will challenge them to not just cast a vote, but consider why they feel that way. They’ll learn more in the process, too.
Your group has some variety of these types of students. They talk too much, they talk too little, they one-up everyone and try to impress with their Bible knowledge. They’re all important, and you should love them all. And by being aware of their tendencies you can interact with them accordingly and have a much more productive time as a whole group.