Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One Simple Way to Quickly Improve Your Small Group

Have you ever led one of those small groups that you felt was a total waste of time? Every once in a while I have one of those days. It seems like no matter what I do or how hard I try, the kids have a hard time focusing.

If you have ever felt like that, this tip is for you. Perhaps the solution to your problem is simpler than you think. It could be that all you need to do is remove distractions from your small group area so kids are able to focus better.

Several weeks ago I introduced the concept of honor by giving each 2nd grader in my group an inflated balloon early in the small group time. I had the kids draw the face of someone they wanted to honor on the balloon. Then, I had them all toss their balloons in the air and try to keep them off the ground. This was designed to illustrate how honoring someone is like “lifting them up.”

After the kids had batted their balloons for about fifteen seconds, their energy increased. With each bat, they jumped up a bit more. I could tell that in about five more seconds, mayhem was going to break loose if I didn’t collect the balloons. If that happened, I’d never be able to recapture the kids attention.

My mind quickly shifted into problem-solving mode. I grabbed the black trash bag in which I had originally stored the inflated balloons. I quickly held it up and caught the first balloon I saw. Then, I captured a second and a third. Once I assured the kids that they could have their balloons back after our group was over, they were eager to bat the balloons toward the bag. I encouraged them to toss their balloons up and see if I could catch them. I made my capturing of the balloons a fun activity for them.

Once I had all the balloons stored securely in the bag, I was able to transition to the next activity without any distractions. Capturing the balloons was the most important thing I did that morning. Had I allowed the kids to keep their newly-created toys during the group, they wouldn’t have paid attention to the rest of the lesson.

There are certain distractions that have a way of showing up repeatedly during small groups. Here are a few and how to remove them.

Supplies (The #1 culprit)
  • Wait until kids need supplies (including Bibles) before you distribute them.
  • Collect supplies as soon as the kids are done with them.
Kids’ personal items
  • Kindly ask for them. Assure the children you’ll return their belongings after small group time.
  • If you make it a practice to collect personal items at the beginning of small group time, kids will become used to that and may even stop bringing them.
Noise or movement in the hall
  • Close the door.
  • Have the kids sit with their back to the door.
Noise or movement in the rest of the room
  • Position yourself with your back to the wall (instead of to the center of the room.) This way kids won’t be visually distracted by other things that may be happening in the center of the room.
  • Don't allow yourself to get distracted. If you do, the kids certainly will.
You may not be able to eliminate every distraction, but if you take these precautions, you can eliminate the majority of distractions very easily and increase the likelihood that the kids in your group will leave with a better understanding of the point you were trying to communicate to them.

Have a great group this week!

(photo by Andre Maceira)


Bethany said...

I love these tips! A few months ago, I started implementing them in my 4th (now 5th) grade girls group and they really made a difference! (The one about having yourself against the wall so they don't see the rest of the room also reduced the number of times I had to say "Don't play with the moonrock" during the lesson.)
But the most important one for me has been strategically timing when they receive (and give back) items in correlation to the instructions. I'm constantly restructuring my order of instructions to accomplish the best outcome possible. (And all the items stay behind me and/or out of sight before and after.)
Love it!

Eyes Wide Open said...

Thanks for the comment Bethany. I'm glad these tips have helped. Taking the time to figure out what to say and how to time your instructions with the distribution of items can be the difference between an ineffective or effective small group. The payback is so worth the time you spend figuring out how to reduce distractions. Have a great group this week!