God created us to do life together in community. That’s why Switch groups are an essential part of leading students to become fully devoted followers of Christ. So, as a Switch leader, you get the awesome honor and responsibility to lead these students. On a typical Wednesday night, students spend about 30 minutes in their Switch groups. It’s easy for students to spend that half hour talking about surface-level things. Before you know it, those 30 minutes are gone, and your group never went below the surface.
But no worries! While you probably won’t have deep conversations every Wednesday, you can use these four tips to deepen your Switch group conversation on most Wednesdays. The best part? These techniques are super easy to implement.
- Help students develop a self-focus. Encourage students to talk about themselves and their feelings, emotions, and experiences rather than focusing on other people. One of the reasons conversations in Switch groups don’t get deep is because students avoid talking about their problems by deflecting and talking about someone else, whether that be their mom, dad, siblings, friends, or other students at school. Students may also avoid answering questions by telling stories about other people. You might need to redirect your student to tell you their stories at a later time if they keep derailing group conversations. Sometimes, it’s relevant and important for students to talk about what’s going on in their friends’ or family’s lives, but make sure they aren’t doing to it avoid talking about their own feelings.
- Focus on the present, not the past. Challenge students to open up about what they are dealing with now. Group conversation can get sidetracked if we continually allow students to talk about what happened to them five years ago or bring up issues from the past instead of the present. Sometimes, it can be relevant for students to give past examples, but just make sure it’s not a method for them to avoid opening up. So, instead of allowing conversation to surround the last week’s gossip at school, shift their focus to how they are feeling about the message they just heard. Keep encouraging students to share what they are currently thinking and feeling.
- Model and manage self-disclosure. You are in charge of modeling the behaviors you want to see. If you want your students to be vulnerable, you must lead by example and model vulnerability. Students want leaders who are open, honest, and real. However, it’s important to keep self-disclosure to a minimum. Don’t spend the entire group time talking about your problems or past. But do use your experiences to create a safe space for the students to voice their struggles. Often, you must initiate deeper, more meaningful topics of conversation and allow the students to follow your lead.
- Create structure. When your students know what to expect, they’re more likely to open up. So, if you want to deepen your Switch group discussion, create structure. That means you need to plan for time to get deep—otherwise your students can easily spend the entire time talking about surface-level things. Start your time together with an icebreaker to help the students feel comfortable opening up, but keep the icebreaker to a minimum. Take turns going around the circle for the icebreaker so that every student says something each week in group. Then, make space for deeper conversation. Choose one or two questions from your leader guide and challenge your students to be vulnerable. Also, make sure to set aside time at the end of group for prayer requests. I recommend setting an alarm to go off five to 10 minutes before the end of group. By setting time aside for prayer requests, you are showing the students that you value them and the power of prayer. Students are likely to share personal struggles during prayer requests time. Make sure to end your group at the same time every Wednesday. If Switch ends at 8:30pm, students are going to tune out if you keep conversation going until 8:50pm. You can always pull students aside after group or reach out to them during the week for further conversation.
True change happens when students are doing life together in Switch groups. Use these tips to maximize group time and deepen conversations. By encouraging students to focus on themselves and their current feelings, the group conversation can go from shallow to deep. And by implementing structure and modeling vulnerability, you’re leading your group more effectively and building trust, which helps students grow in their faith. You’ve got this!