At this point, the pre-experience is long done. The main experience is ending, and it’s time to transition to the final portion of a Switch experience: the post-experience.
When it’s time to sit in a small group and talk, some students feel a mixture of negative emotions. It may feel overwhelming to sit, chat, and participate in an intimate social time, or it might be difficult for them to understand and/or respond to the questions they’re being asked.
When every student is supported enough to feel safe, participate in, and communicate with their small groups, they’ll feel included and a part of their Switch community.
Use the strategies below to help your student feel safe and included so they can have a great experience with God and their peers too!
As Small Groups Gather Post-Experience
- This process may vary from campus to campus and from week to week at Switch. If you’ve been sitting with your small group already, this may be a fairly easy process. If you’ve been out in the lobby for a break or otherwise situated away from the student’s small group, you’ll need to help your student transition to the small group conversation.
- Keep tabs on your student’s stress level as you help them join a small group. If they reach their limit, be ready to give them a break, and try again.
- Know where your student’s small group meets up, and be sure your student knows where to go.
- Create a spot for your student to sit and show it to them. If your student struggles to join the group, ask the other students to save their spot for them.
- Introduce the student you’re supporting to the others in the group if they don’t know each other already.
Encouraging Communication During Small Group Conversation
- Communicate with the small group leader to let them know you’re there to support your student. Let them know you’ll help your student join in with the group discussions if and when they can.
- Do not force your student to answer questions or talk.
- Do not ignore your student. Gently encourage them to open up. Let them know you value what they have to say, but they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to, and they can choose to communicate with the group when they’re ready.
- Discreetly repeat questions for your student when necessary.
- Pause longer after questions to give your student a chance to think it over and decide if they want to answer.
- Be consistent in the way you speak to the student you’re supporting compared to their peers. Don’t talk to the student like they’re younger or less able than their peers.
- When verbal communication isn’t your student’s preferred way of communicating:
- Ask their parent if they have other forms of communication they could use at Switch.
- Try texting the student the questions.
- Ask the student to text you or the group their thoughts and answers if they’d like.
Encouraging Focus During Small Group Conversation
- Offer sensory calming and focusing items to your student, such as a weighted pillow or shoulder wrap, stress ball, fidget spinner, putty, stretch tubes, etc. to help them focus.
- Offer sensory calming and focusing items to the whole group by placing a small pile of them in the middle of the group so the student you’re supporting doesn’t feel like they’re being singled out.
- Offer discreet verbal or visual cues to your student (such as pointing to your eyes or your ears) to remind them to listen to and respect other students when they are talking.
Above all, remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. It may take time for your student to feel comfortable enough to open up. It may take time for your student to formulate and express things they’d like to share with the group. It may take time for your student to be able to sit with their group at all. All of these things are okay! You’re doing your part to help a student become comfortable and feel safe at Switch. God is working in and through you as you do.