I once led a workshop about writing. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. There was a moment during the workshop when I was losing control of the audience, and one of the organizers pulled me aside to warn me about it. I love writing, but I don’t think my expertise on the topic is as strong as say my expertise on programming. Combine that with my lack of experience leading workshops, and the fact the organizer had her own vision of it which contradicted my own.
But I’d never forget those words she said to me, “You’re losing them.”
Sometimes I catch myself saying those words when I’m leading a small group of junior high boys. It’s not uncommon, in fact it happens all the time, where the boys will wander off topic. I’ll try to get them talking about being a Christian in their school, one student will give a good response, but then they won’t really have anything else interesting to say so they’ll start talking about video games or Donald Trump.
The thing about being an introvert is that leading the group back to the discussion is hard. This requires me to think on my feet, then say my idea out loud to a group of people. It’s not that I’m afraid to do this, it’s just that it’s hard. And when I do the words never come out eloquently.
Preparation helps. I know that the more time I spend going through the material ahead of time, the more tools and options I’ll have at my disposal when I lead the group. But I’ve learned that no matter how much preparation you do, you always have to think on your feet. Small group discussions can go in any direction and with junior high boys can quickly go out of control.
Having a team also helps. If you’re leading a small group with a partner, you can bounce back and forth between who’s leading the discussion. If you need a few moments to think over what you’re going to say next, then your partner can take over for a few minutes.
What I’ve also found that helps in a team environment is having brief team leader meetings before small group. They’re kind of like small group for the leaders. In your meeting you’ll want to discuss the topic for small group, various strategies for what to talk about, and plans for how to communicate to your particular students.
Lastly, just pray. Prayer I find helps the most, but you have to take the time to do it. Pray that God will be there when you’re leading your group. And just like Moses that he’ll provide the words for you to speak.