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3 Ways to Get Your Group Unstuck (Part 2)

Every small group leader has moments where the conversation comes to a screeching halt. The factors involved are many. Here is a short list I have continually seen over the years. In our last post we discussed the first of our three ways to group unstuck, get visual. Go check it out if you haven’t read it yet. Today we get to way number two.

Get Easy Wins – One of the things that can get a conversation stuck is a lack of understanding of the question. We are all guilty of asking a complicated and confusing question. Students can be confused and then just say nothing. What if we could create momentum in the conversation, so they had the confidence to talk more. This is when I teach the idea of getting easy wins. Whenever the conversation gets stuck, take a step back, then ask the simplest question you can for the group to answer. Let’s say I asked this question while holding up a plastic red ball pit ball “How has this plastic ball changed how children have been able to play?” After a few moments of silence or confusion, getting the easy win means asking this “What color is this ball?”. Most everyone will be able to answer right away, red. Then you start working your way back to the original question. 

  • What color is this ball?  A. Red
  • What is it made of? A. Plastic
  • Where have you seen it before? A. Kids playlands inside of fast food places and indoor playgrounds.
  • What are some reasons you think they use these? A. They make it safe and fun to play inside.
  • “How has this plastic ball changed how children have been able to play?” A. They have allowed kids to play safely inside even when the outside doesn’t allow it. 

Our Bible and life questions can sound confusing, but working through them from easy to the original question can build so much conversation momentum.  

In what ways are you getting groups unstuck? Let us know in the comments and look for part three Asking Better Questions.

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3 Ways to Get Your Group Unstuck (Part 1)

Every small group leader has moments where the conversation comes to a screeching halt. The factors involved are many. Here is a short list I have continually seen over the years. 

  • Tired and hungry
  • Quiet kids are a dominant number of the group.
  • Fear of saying the wrong thing or answering incorrectly. 
  • Not understanding the wording of the question
  • No desire to engage in anything faith-related
  • Mom and dad made them come
  • Leaders not meeting the students where they are developmentally or educationally

Your list may have even more factors on it. The result can be frustrating. 

Leaders feel defeated and students may not feel connected. We as youth pastors have the continual challenge to equip leaders for the many conversations that they encounter. Yet what about what I call the in-game mechanics of leading a small group.  

So how do we help get a small group unstuck? Here is the first of three ways to make it happen.

Get Visual – One of the most overlooked parts of a student ministry can be identifying learning styles and applying them to how we walk through Bible Studies, discussions, and connecting. One of my favorite weapons to arm leaders with is a box of sharpies and a pad of giant 25×30 post-it notes. This portable white space can be used on a wall for whiteboarding a conversation or placed in the middle so students can draw their answers to a question. I love the continual innovation in how I see it gets used and then left up on the wall for the next week. Another way we get visual in groups is by bringing in physical objects that connect with the discussion. We all do it as speakers, but going that extra mile to help a leader see that they can bring something in from home to help discuss a Bible passage makes all the difference.

What ways do you help get your group unstuck? Check back for part two and three this week.

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I wish I had a call-in show…

I wish I had a call-in show after youth group on Wednesday nights.

After everyone is gone, weary and tired I still have this crazy desire to just talk about it. I want to break down the program, celebrating the new things we tried, the successful timing, and the moments that worked. I want to celebrate our failures with laughter. I want to unpack why something didn’t work. I want to tell the story about what my dudes shared in a small group. I want to rant about the stuff that just frustrated me.

I wish I had a call-in show where all us crazy youth pastors who can’t just turn it off could call in and talk about what just happened. I know everyone’s youth group isn’t on Wednesday nights, but how awesome would it be for us to take some time to be truly be united through a conversation about our love, our joy, as well as our messy life in youth ministry.

The reality is that most youth pastors and leaders around the country can feel lonely after a long day and night. They can feel like no one really understands their sacrifice or why that one moment that no one else saw was worth the entire night. They are a little off their rocker to want to talk about those nights where things just completely fail, but thats what we want to do.

This isn’t a job or a career. This thing is in our bones and our blood.

Tonight I saw the best parts and the parts I wish didn’t happen.
I was front row for the student who unexpectedly shared about anger and frustration from a family wound. I was also on my email tonight when I learned about a new student who didn’t connect very well and isn’t sure he wants to come back. I saw planning center live actually work from my iPad on stage keeping us on time. I also saw my online groups get accidentally muted many times during the night.

I know I am not the only one, and many times when I go home I think to myself, I wish I had a call-in show with youth leaders and youth pastors so we could just talk about it before going to bed.

We are a youth ministry united across denominations, geographic boundaries, sizes and styles under one name, Jesus. Wouldn’t it be cool to actually connect that way.

Leave a comment that you would share if it was a call-in show about what happened this past week in youth ministry.

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Hot Take: Our best days in Zoom Youth Ministry are ahead

Like most of the youth ministry universe, our church has rocked many different online versions of our programs. YouTube original content with live chat to offering groups through massive zoom meetings is among those offerings. This bumpy ride has led to innovations, failures, and complete fatigue from doing so much digital both at work, in school, and through ministry. This fatigue created a blind spot I wasn’t fully aware of until this past Wednesday night. Blindspots are those places between our side mirrors the road that oncoming cars pass through. Without consideration before changing lanes, blindspots have the power to cause trouble. The blindspot created from my Zoom fatigue led to the quick dismissal of its future place in our ministries. That experience has led to a question I want to pose here and now.

What if our best days in Zoom Youth Ministry were ahead?

Church online has been a less attractive option for us as we were able to meet in person. Tired of zoom and trying to juggle it all, online has sort of fallen to the wayside a bit. Lack of volunteer support, lack of desire to do that one more thing, and bumpy experiences have all contributed to the problem.

Maybe that is why I was set up for a surprise this past Wednesday night.

Stuck at home because of quarantine protocols for the second straight week, I was the logical choice for the host for our online option. Since it was my only real option to connect as a youth pastor, it had my full attention. What was different this time, however, was our approach.

Using the simple technology of a Facebook Portal (which now supports zoom calls), Zoom, and OBS switcher software we offered a hybrid approach. As the host, I could spotlight the in-person content for our online crew. When there were moments that didn’t translate online, OBS software allowed me to play games and videos to flesh out our large group time. All of this landed at the same place in-person and online, small group breakouts.

I was confounded by how much we felt part of the vibe that was happening in-person. Facebook Portal made it so easy, where it had been tough before. OBS made playing videos smoothly, where in the past just doing a screen share made them jumpy. Making it all happen in the same time slot as in-person further created the bridge. Think about the possibilities that are now normalized for us going forward.

Snow days that canceled youth groups in some parts of the country can continue online.
Leader meetings now have more accessible time options.
Technology continues to improve so we can offer more engaging experiences online.

Zoom Youth Ministry gave me honest prayers from our small group members, like Bella, who wanted me to pray for her parents to get connected to Christ and a follow-up conversation with one of our young leaders who stayed back to debrief the night.

In-person will never cease to be my number one priority for students, but I do believe our best days in Zoom Youth Ministry are ahead. Connecting people to Jesus and one another will happen on a level we couldn’t have dreamed over a year ago.