GETTING YOUTH TO PARTICIPATE
When teaching small groups, your success is often determined more by what you can bring out of your students than how well you speak. The benefits of good discussions are legion. For example,
- You get a valuable pooling of insights and experiences.
- Many youth hate lecture, but love conversation.
- Good interaction engages their minds, often enhancing understanding and retention.
- Sharing gives youth a chance to teach one another, thereby using their gifts.
Convinced? Then how can we get kids to open up and take part in discussions?
1. Realize the barriers faced by many. A survey was taken to determine people�s greatest fears. The number one fear they listed? The fear of speaking in public. I know respected, intelligent adults who tell their preacher, "Never call on me to pray in church." They can�t handle it. But the smaller the group, the less intimidation. If your group is large, consider regularly breaking into smaller groups. And beware of putting them on the spot by spontaneously calling on them, unless they tell you that they don�t mind. If some people think they might be called on, they may never come back.
2. Praise good input.> "Great point!" "Thanks for your input." A compliment at another time in the week ("Your input helped to make that lesson fly!") may put her on board as a regular contributor.
3.Avoid put downs. Even the most boring, irrelevant comment can be followed by, "I really appreciate your sharing. Does anyone else have a comment?" Or, "Good input, but not exactly what I was looking for." Remember, it takes lots of guts for some to open their mouths. One strong put down could seal her mouth permanently.
4. Don�t feel obligated to correct every mistake.> Can you imagine what life with Jesus would have been like, had He felt constrained to point out every lustful thought, every mixed metaphor, every poorly worded comment by His disciples? Sometimes, it�s best to brainstorm, pooling together all their ideas, without pronouncing judgment on any, before making your point.
5. Don�t tolerate distractions, such as:
- "Blabber Mouth Bernard."> During the session, you might say, "Bernie, let�s get some input from others who haven�t had a chance to share." Following the session, one on one: >"Bernie, I appreciate your input during the lesson. But I�ve got a problem. How do you think we could get more people involved? Next week, after you get the ball rolling with a comment or two, let�s allow some dead time after a question to see if someone else might open up."
- "Jim Carey Wannabe."> Before a session, to the entire group: "I feel so important about our time in the Word of God, that I can�t tolerate any distractions. I truly believe that God wants to touch some lives within the next hour, and it�s not fair to the group if anyone distracts from what God is up to. So here are the rules during the teaching time. Distract once and I�ll warn you to stop. Distract again and my assistant will take a walk with you."
- I only remember once that I had to ask someone to leave. Setting your rules clearly ahead of time can clear a lot of confusion. From my experience, the majority of youth don�t want distractions. Oh sure, they�ll laugh along with the wise cracks and not act like it bothers them. But I was amazed when I took a survey of my youth to find that many expressed that they were bothered by the distractions of a few. They want you to keep control.
6. Give a chance to prepare a response. For a shy group, try dividing into small groups, brainstorming with a secretary recording the main ideas, and having someone read the ideas. Or, have youth individually write out a response, and read it back.
7. Ask open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions can be answered with a yes or no. Once they answer, you�re still struggling to get that conversation going. Open-ended questions require a sentence or more to respond. For example, "What kind of excuses would have come to your mind had Jesus asked you to drop everything and follow Him?"