Something to Talk About (As if They Need It)

Discussion_bubbles_350One gift that many young people possess is the ability to talk. Some teens seem to talk all the time: in the halls at school, during class (even when they are not supposed to), during the sermon, and on Gchat, Snapchat, Insta, and so on. As a teacher, you can take advantage of this natural affinity for peer interaction. When they discuss various topics, discussions are more likely to be meaningful for young people.

Many teaching activities call for a particular type of discussion: one-on-one, pairs, small groups, large groups, or another specific kind of conversation. Some view group discussion as a path to losing control of the group. Discussion, however, is a great way to involve everyone in what’s going on while also deepening their connections to one another and the topic. The suggestions that follow may assist your youth group discussions:

1. We don’t have to be afraid of silence. We sometimes ask youth a question and, after only a few seconds, answer it ourselves and move on. Allow time for the question to resonate with the group. Restate it if the group seems not to understand. Not all teenagers have a ready answer to every question. Although some will immediately offer an answer, the quiet teen might have the most insightful answer of all. Give that person time to form and offer a response.

2. Our opinions are not always important. Some teenagers are interested in our opinions and may ask us what we think about a particular question. Offering our thoughts can move the session along, but in doing so, some teens may not be forced to consider their own opinion. Some may simply adopt our answers rather than formulating their own. A good response might be, “That’s a good question. What do you think?”

3. “Chasing rabbits,” so to speak, is not always disruptive. For example, suppose your group is discussing Jonah’s prayer when out of nowhere a youth remarks, “I haven’t prayed since my grandfather died.” Although unrelated to Jonah’s prayer from within the whale, the outburst offers a teachable moment and an opportune “rabbit” to chase.

4. Be willing to challenge someone’s answer. Teens are in the process of forming their own ideas. Sometimes they make contrary remarks simply for shock value. If a teenager makes claims about which you do not agree, you might want to invite that person to explain further by asking them to relate it to the session topic. Although some issues are better ignored or dealt with in private, others are worth pursuing if only to communicate that you are not intimidated by any question.

5. Affirm the fact that they are thinking. If teenagers know you appreciate their sharing of ideas, they may speak out more often. In future instances they are likely to feel more comfortable about sharing their thoughts. When they feel more open to sharing, more learning can occur.

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