While some logistical questions are the same for all small groups, there are some special issues that should be thoughtfully considered when dealing with teens.
Make sure that you are following all diocesan and parish guidelines for keeping your teens safe. If you have questions about this, check out your diocesan website. A common program that many Episcopal churches use is called Safeguarding God’s Children.
Where should the session be held?
For safe church and insurance reasons, we recommend that all sessions be held at the church. However, your context may demand a different solution, like meeting in a coffee shop, a diner, or a library. All places teens meet should be public and safe.
What time should the session be held?
Because of the intense time and scheduling pressures our teens are under, we recommend holding the small group sessions when teens are already scheduled to be together. If this isn’t possible, talk with some of the teens and parents about their best time to meet. For some, this may be a shorter breakfast session before school, or Sunday evenings.
If you have older and responsive teens, you might find that the best way to meet them where they are is to do some kind of online group that could meet at the same time via video chat, or asynchronously through a social media platform. You can find resources for creating online groups here.
How should we make the participants feel comfortable?
Provide clear instructions about group norms. Some groups prefer to create these as a group, other groups will be okay with a pre-made list that everyone goes over together. Let your group know that it will always be visible in the room and that you will be referring to it as necessary. In addition, provide simple acts of hospitality, such as ensuring that participants know where the restrooms are and where they should hang up their coat. Take the pulse of the group: Does the thermostat need to be moved up or down? Do participants need to take a short break? Let participants know from the very first meeting that their comfort is important to the leaders.
Should we provide food?
Generally, teens love food, and they love eating with each other. Who doesn’t? However, your choices to provide a meal or snacks are going to be contingent on context and budget.
If budget and time allow for snacks or food, please take into consideration:
- The possibility of the teens cooking a simple meal together, especially as the group is starting to form deeper relationships in the beginning weeks of Meeting Jesus.
- Dietary restrictions or allergies.
- If sharing a meal together, we recommending adding 30 minutes of additional time before beginning your session. We do not recommend eating dinner while having the small group session.
We encourage the Host to be responsible for coordinating snacks and meals.
How will participants be notified of changes to session location, time or cancellation?
In case of inclement weather or illness, your small group may have to be postponed. This decision should be a joint decision made by the host and facilitator, and communicated to parents and teens by either of the two leaders. When individuals join your small group, please collect their name, phone and email so you have multiple ways of contacting your small group members, in addition to their parent’s contact information. You may find the easiest way to communicate is to set up a group text message. A decision to change the meeting should be communicated several different ways to ensure that everyone knows about the change. If at all possible, place a physical sign at the original meeting place to alert those who did not get the message or forgot.