Understanding some basic principles of small group dynamics can help you meet the goals you have for your teen Bible class or study.
The first thing you need to decide is which of the two major types of small groups you want to create. Support type groups are designed to help a group of teens work through a particular issue or to create a group of teens that feels safe sharing everything with each other.
Support type small groups are often not the best choice for a church based Bible class. That’s because support type small groups are closed groups – once the group starts no one else is allowed to join. This creates an atmosphere where people can learn to trust each other and share their deepest questions or struggles.
The other type of small group used with teens is an evangelistic group. Members are encouraged to bring friends. People often come and go and there is usually at least one new person at each class.
Because the group fluctuates so much, most teens won’t feel safe enough to be totally open and vulnerable. They are great however, for introducing people to Christianity, helping teens strengthen their spiritual foundations and providing opportunities for them to grow to their godly potential. They can help students become closer friends and can “birth” new support type small groups.
The other important thing to watch in a small group Bible class setting are the conversational dynamics. Extroverts will eagerly answer almost any question. Introverts may never get a chance to speak. In fact, if you aren’t careful, one or two students can dominate every discussion – leaving others out entirely.
Try to intentionally encourage others to participate in class discussions. Don’t force shy students to talk if they are obviously very uncomfortable. Pushing them too hard can make them want to avoid even attending class.
Whichever type of small group you choose, set ground rules that protect the privacy of the people involved. Students should not hear the private things they shared in Bible class spread all over their high school the next day. Teaching teens to create a safe environment for their fellow students to be transparent is also teaching them to reflect God’s love more accurately.
Small groups can add a lot of value to teen ministry. Managing group dynamics can help those small groups be as successful as possible. It’s worth your time and effort.