Some Basic Guidelines For Leading A Student Ministry Discussion
Don’t be afraid of silence
Let the students sit for a moment and think.
Do Value Student Input
Do whatever it takes to affirm the comments of student input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong (you probably don’t want to put a big red “idiot” stamp on their forehead). Do not feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.
Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers
We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. You are, but most of them don’t think so. Don’t pretend like you have every theological answer. Here is a great line: I don’t know.
Don’t read questions off the leader’s guide
Understand the questions and be prepared to ask them in your own terms. Feel free to generate your own questions during your preparation AND even “on the spot.”
Don’t talk more than the students
Ask questions to generate discussion, ask students to explain their answers and go into more depth. Allow multiple students to respond, even if the first person gets the “right” answer. We love to hear our selves talk too.
Do ask students if they have questions
Encourage them to deal with the material on their own terms. Create a climate where people feel the freedom to ask any question.
Do echo some responses to your questions
If a student’s answer or comment is long-winded or unclear, repeat it back (summarize it) for clarity. This proves you are listening and it keeps the attention of the rest of the group.
Don’t move to a new question too quickly
After a student answers a question, ask, “Would anyone like to add to that?” or “Does everyone agree/disagree with that?”
Do keep the group focused and on purpose
Don’t go down a rabbit trail and leave the topics and/or Scripture passages unless something “big time” comes up (e.g., a family crisis). Be sensitive to the Spirit (but that’s not an excuse to be lazy and let the group wander). Wandering is easy, being a leader isn’t!
Do require and maintain confidentiality
This allows students to open up because they feel their environment is safe. However, don’t keep potentially dangerous information to yourself (e.g. abuse, suicide, destructive intentions, etc.)
Don’t be discouraged
Welcome to my youth ministry career. Even if you don’t have enough students for your own small group . . . we will give you phone numbers of students to call and invite to your small group.
AGAIN Don’t be discouraged
When (not IF) you have a “bad night.” There is not a small group leader alive in the world that hasn’t had bad nights.