Breaking the Silence
People are weird about silence. In some situations we want people talking to us and holding conversation, in other places it’s the last thing we want. For example, when you are bored in line or the waiting area of a doctor’s office we may want there to be conversation. When we are using the bathroom we probably don’t want to have a conversation. There are many different areas where we want silence, but one of those areas isn’t in small groups.
Small groups are meant to be a time of building relationships. It’s hard to build relationships when no conversation is being made. I work in the kid’s ministry at Grace Community Church, in Clarksville, TN, and i’m no stranger to silent small groups. Two years ago I was placed as a small group leader for sixth grade boys and needless to say they talked, a lot. Middle school kids are still young, not completely mature yet, and full of stories. Those boys talked before service, during worship, during the message, and right before group, but the moment group began their was silence. Why is that? What is it about small group that intimidates people and suddenly makes them so quiet?
Well one thing that most people struggle with, when going into a small group, is what to expect. Many ponder if this is going to look like an Alcoholics Anonymous type group or a class room type environment. First time people, enter into small groups extremely intimidated and not knowing what to expect and it’s even harder to break this intimidation for elementary and middle schoolers. What can be done to break this awkwardness, this silence, which is dominating small groups?
1. Set Foundation
The first thing to do in re leaving the intimidation and silence in a small group is to set foundation for the group. This can be a time for rules (very important for kid and youth ministry), expectations, and purpose. If you are leading a small group it is imperative you set up that the small group is meant to build relationships, grow closer, and help one another with struggles and questions of faith.
The second thing to do, for building your small group, is to start introductions. Why is this second? Because your students/members need to understand why they are there to begin with. If they don’t understand the vision or purpose, they won’t really care who you are and/or be too intimidated to remember who anyone in the group is. Introductions begin everything! Your introduction time is going to allow for the beginning of the group relationship to breathe. Introductions are the breath of life for relationships. Leaders need to introduce themselves by saying, who you are, why you’re here, and what you want to gain out of the group. Older groups can go more in depth with explaining your profession, your aspirations, etc. But younger groups need to be told to answer 3 questions about themselves (such as: favorite color, what you want to be, and your favorite thing to do).
3. Address the Silent
Many people (students specifically) will easily try and hide in small groups. Most people that are shy, slow to open up, and intimidated by small groups will easily hide behind the members that aren’t afraid to talk. Don’t let the hiders go unnoticed! Everyone needs to be recognized in a small group. There are no shadows for building meaningful relationships, so don’t allow for someone to hide in them. When we ignore the quiet or shy, we might be trying to save them from feeling awkward, but we’re really just neglecting them and showing them that if they left the group it wouldn’t be a major loss. Be intentional about calling on the quiet.
4. Build the relationship
Real relationships aren’t timed, so don’t let your small group relationship be timed. It’s important we connect, talk, and grow with members/students outside of small group time. Show them that they matter more than just during group time. Spend time with your members, your students, your group. You will influence them and they will influence you even more.
These are four ways to break the deafening silence of small groups. Don’t let silence dominate your group time, fight it off. Be intentional in your group time and out of your group time.
What struggles do you have with silence in your group? What advice do you have for breaking the silence?