Floyd Godfrey, PhD


Facilitating Meaningful Discussion in Small Groups for Christian Teen Ministry

By Floyd Godfrey

*To watch my presentation on this topic: YouTube.


As stewards of young souls in Christian teen ministries, our aim goes beyond mere gatherings; it's about fostering environments where meaningful discussion flourishes, transforming lives in the process. This guidance is particularly important for pastors and volunteers who are on the front lines of these transformative small group sessions. The essence of our small groups lies not just in gathering, but in the cultivation of spaces where every participant feels seen, heard, and valued.

Begin with Vulnerability

The journey towards meaningful discussion starts with vulnerability. As leaders, sharing stories from our own lives or those close to us (with permission) sets a precedent. It demonstrates that our groups are safe places for openness and honesty, not spaces for judgment or critique. Remember, the goal is to facilitate growth and understanding, not to process your personal experiences.

Embrace Open-Ended Questions

The art of asking the right questions cannot be overstated. Train yourself to use open-ended questions during small group time, that encourages deep reflection and sharing. Phrasing matters. For example, instead of asking if someone gets angry when grounded, inquire about the thoughts and feelings that emerge in those moments. This subtle shift can open the door to richer, more insightful conversations.

Don't Shy Away from the Hard Topics

Meaningful discussion often ventures into challenging territory. Don't be afraid to tackle the hard questions. It's okay to admit when you don't have all the answers. Such honesty can actually enhance your credibility and encourage others to share their perspectives and experiences. If you’ve been leading a group effectively, chances are the difficult questions and uncomfortable topics will arise. This is a good sign you are doing the right things!

Allow Emotions to Surface

Creating a space where emotions are not only allowed but welcomed, is crucial. Let participants express themselves fully, whether through tears, laughter, or silence. These emotional expressions are powerful and can lead to breakthroughs in understanding and empathy.

Ensure Everyone is Heard

In every group, dynamics can vary greatly. Make a conscious effort to involve everyone, using direct invitations to share, such as asking specific individuals what they think about a topic or how they would handle a particular situation. This practice ensures that all voices are valued and heard.

Know Your Group

Understanding who is in your group deepens the relevance and impact of your discussions. Encourage parents to keep you informed about their teen's life and use this information to guide conversations that resonate with their experiences. This not only shows that you care but also that you are invested in their growth and well-being.

Seek Guidance When Necessary

When discussions unearth serious concerns, do not hesitate to consult with senior ministry leaders or pastors for guidance. Your role as a facilitator includes recognizing when professional advice or intervention is needed to best support a group member. In some situations, you or your pastor will have a legal obligation to speak with parents or make reports for the safety of the student.

In conclusion, facilitating meaningful discussion within small groups for Christian teen ministries is a profound responsibility. It requires vulnerability, intentionality, and a deep commitment to the spiritual and emotional growth of each participant. By following these principles, pastors and volunteers can create transformative experiences that echo far beyond the confines of their meetings, fostering a community of faith, understanding, and unconditional support.

Floyd Godfrey has led various teen groups within different churches and denominations over the past 30 years. He worked as a licensed counselor for 23 years and provided supervision and training for other counselors as they learned to develop adolescent intervention and programming. You can read more about Floyd Godfrey at www.FloydGodfrey.com.

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