You’ve come to the critical part of the Edge Night – small groups. For some Core Members, this is the part that scares them the most. However, with the right tools and training, it can be the most fruitful. Small groups are the time for the middle school youth to “break” open the theme for the night and find out how it relates to their lives. This particular blog is in two parts: a) thoughts on the Break; b) small group dynamics.
Thoughts on the Break:
- You need to make sure that there is a good 25-30 minutes for the Break portion of the Night. That does not include the “travel” time. In order for groups to be able to pray, discuss, bond, and work through the activities, you need to give them ample time in small group.
- There are usually more activities written into the Break section than you will have time. This affords you the opportunity to pick and choose those things that work for your group. If your group is having an “off” night, you way need to consider which activities or discussion questions will work best.
- If you are transitioning from a traditional classroom setting to an Edge model, take time to consider where your small groups meet. Sometimes when Core Members meet in a classroom, they feel compelled to revert to the “teacher” model verses being the facilitator for the small group.
- Each small group has a list of discussion questions. Use those in a variety of ways. You can start your small group with a few questions or mix it up and do an activity then the questions or ask questions during an activity.
- Small groups are a time for youth to break open what they have heard during the Gather and Proclaim and relate it to their lives. Don’t simply see the activities and questions as something you have to “get through,” but rather as an opportunity for the youth to better understand the catechetical or issue theme for the night.
- Have the youth help clean up their small group space. If the Core Member cleans up and sends the youth ahead of him/her, you will have a room filled with middle school youth and no adults.
Small Group Dynamics:
- Circle Up: The circle is the best way to ensure that all youth are seen and heard in the group.
- Level Up: Everyone should sit on the same level. If you are sitting on the floor, everyone should sit up; don’t have some sitting, some lying down, etc. Similarly, it can be difficult for the group to hear each other if some are sitting on a bench, some on the floor, and some leaning on each other – everyone on the same level.
- Split Up: If you have more than one adult/youth leader, split up. If you sit next to each other, it can be harder to discipline. Strategically place yourselves in the circle.
- Be Prepared: If you haven’t read through the small group questions and activities for the night, the youth will know it.
- Ask good questions: Be sure to ask questions and follow-up questions that require more than a simple answer. Instead of, “Do you like baseball? Do you play baseball?” Ask, “Do you like baseball? What is your favorite part? Do you have any favorite players? Why?”
- Start Well: After your small group opening prayer, take some time to find out what kind of a week the youth had or are having. Ask the youth what their “high and low” moment of the previous or current week is and follow up with something they have shared from the week before.
- Be Open: Middle school youth can sometimes come up with very creative answers. Allow them to explore their faith through discussion and questions.
- Be Flexible: Sometimes the group shows up and you’d swear it’s a full moon and they want nothing to do with the activity for the night. Know when your group may need some extra time to share about what is going on in their personal lives and then relate it to the theme for the night.
- Meeting Space: Find a good meeting place that allows for good discussion. If you can’t spread out too much, work together as a Core Team to respect each other’s small group time.
Here is something else to consider: As the Edge youth minister or coordinator, the Break is a great opportunity to walk around and see how small groups are doing, listen in to conversations, and add support for the Core Team. However, you can also get caught up in trying to get ready for the close of the night, dealing with discipline issues, talking with parents, etc. It can be very helpful to have one or two extra Core Members who help with walking around and checking in on groups.
Small groups are the best time for relational ministry. Don’t miss the moments of walking to and from your small group area to talk and be relational. During small groups is when you find out where the youth are coming from and can better them closer to Christ.