Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Tween Talk

How to lead a great group discussion with preteens

Creating an environment for great group discussion isn’t easy. But when those interacting with each other (and you) are 8- to 12-year-olds gathered in a church classroom, meaningful conversation becomes an even greater challenge. You want to shape their lives with powerful, life-changing truths; they’re wondering when a new Hannah Montana episode will air.

So how do you set the stage for flourishing discussion? Here are a few guidelines for getting great group talk with preteens.

1. Silence is golden. Some teachers get nervous when they ask a question and the room goes quiet. But sometimes it’s best to let the silence linger. This does a few things: First, it shows you actually want discussion and aren’t just lecturing. It also gives the students time to think. Third, it reveals to you the types of students you have (their depth of thought, the talkers vs. the non-talkers, etc.).

2. Don’t ask yes-or-no questions. It’s OK every now and then to pose a question that has a definitive right or wrong answer. But if you really want to get conversation going, opinion questions are more effective at opening the doors for group involvement. There’s a difference between asking, “What did the blind man do when Jesus healed him?” and “Why do you think the blind man did what he did when he was healed?”

3. Affirm participation. When a tween chimes in with a thought, don’t criticize his remarks. Nothing quiets a crowd faster than a critical leader. Make a point to also use affirming nonverbal communication.

4. Involve everyone. Sometimes it’s helpful to have an “everyone answers” question. These can range from basic opinion questions to funny discussion starters. Go around the room and have everyone respond, even if it’s with a short answer. This breaks the ice for everyone and makes each person more likely to answer deeper questions later.

5. Give individual attention. Each participant in your group approaches discussion differently. You may need to prod the quiet ones by asking, “What do you think?” Others will tend to dominate discussion. If this becomes an issue, an easy solution is to say, “I appreciate your input—what do the rest of you think?” Recognize that students reveal something about themselves in these situations. Why are they shy? What makes them have a story for everything? Do they have a low self-image? Are they seeking attention?

6. Don’t trump everything. When teaching tweens, you’ll undoubtedly know more about what you’re discussing than they do. But which is more valuable: telling students something or having them discover it on their own? Allow students to struggle with ideas before giving them the answer. Ask follow-up questions when something sticks out as relevant, even if it’s not in your lesson plan. Give students room to discover truth independently of your teaching. When they teach themselves, things tend to “stick” much better.

7. Maintain control. Although you want as much participation as possible, don’t forget that you’re the leader. Steer things back on track when they get way off course. Never allow a student to intimidate or make fun of another. Remember, it’s your job to keep the conversation flowing in a safe, productive way.

Great discussion doesn’t require years of training, extra space or expensive resources. With a solid batch of questions and a few simple hints, your lessons can come to life in new and exciting ways for your students.

Titus Benton is a student minister at First Christian Church in Florissant, Mo.

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Jentezen Franklin encourages church leaders to encourage their flocks to vote their values.

    Why We Must Count the Cost—and Vote

    There is a propaganda war that is raging in this country, and it is full of manipulation, lies, ...

  • Have you ever had a cringe moment during your church announcements?

    The 7 Deadly Sins of Church Announcements

    Sometimes they just miss the mark, albeit unintentionally.

  • Peace is indeed attainable in this selfish world. Just look for it in the right place.

    Finding Peace in a Fallen and Selfish World

    You can have peace in this world. Just stop looking in the wrong places.

  • Praying for leaders

    Failing to Do This Can Spell Disaster for the Church

    And it has the potential to destroy many lives.

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Why did you choose the church you attend?

    7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

    The real issue is not the intrigue of this research; it is what you and your church will do about ...

  • Church members argue

    12 Reasons Church Staff Conflict May Arise

    This is not unique, but among these there are some that seem more pervasive than others.

  • Prestonwood Church in Dallas

    What Leaders Can Learn From Prestonwood's Jack Graham

    Leaders don't have to know everything, but they need to give their staff what Graham gives his.

  • Some of these reasons for leaving the church are simply not plausible.

    7 Reasons People Leave Their Church During Crisis Times

    Some of the excuses are pretty extreme and, quite frankly, lazy.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders