PRACTICAL POINTS REGARDING THE GROUP TIMES
The group times are a very important part of the SSOT. The SSOT is not designed to simply rely on the spoken words. Therefore, it is imperative that we pay attention to how we handle the times in the groups. The most important thing is the exercise of the spirit. The group times should be enjoyable. If as a shepherd you are not enjoying the time, how can you expect them to enjoy it? Another very important matter is for the nature of the time to be experiential and not just doctrinal. We should treasure our personal experiences and share how we have been helped by the Bible and the ministry. Even though the young people may not realize it, it is possible that they already have had experiences of some of these things we will be covering. By sharing your experiences in a proper way, you are giving them the utterance to the experiences and feelings they have.
Here are some other helpful reminders of how to care for the time:
Be sure to take care of the atmosphere and to set joint expectations. To help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, get to know the young people. Start out by introducing one another and ask them to share something about themselves. Make personal connections to whatever the young people share about so they feel more connected with you and with one another. In addition, the group should set expectations for the time. Ask the young people in the group how they should get into the lesson. If no one suggests anything, make your own suggestions to what the group should do and ask the young people if they agree on it. You may want to ask a few questions, such as: How should we read the lesson? How many sentences should we read? When someone is reading, what should everyone else be doing? Should we look at the questions before we read? What do you know about this topic? As you set expectations, consider the varying abilities of the young people. We must remember that they are on different levels academically, and we are reading something that is very advanced for a lot of young people, especially those learning English. You may suggest limiting the reading to 1 to 3 sentences per person. If some are really struggling allow them to skip their turn, but still engage them with questions after others read. Finally, it is good to preview the lesson before you begin to read. Read the questions of the lesson beforehand so that the young people can consider what the main points of the lesson will be. Ask the young people what they know about the subject by reviewing the title or subheadings.
Be mindful of the group. As you are reading, consider if the young people understand the vocabulary in the lesson. Not just the “spiritual” vocabulary, but other words used that may be unfamiliar to our young people. As necessary, apply your personal experiences to make the reading more relatable. It is best to use topics that are well known among the young people to emphasize certain points. Finally, be sure to exercise selfrestraint. First Corinthians 14:26 says, “What then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Do not take over the group time to give a message, allow for the young people to be active by asking them questions as you read. Give them time to think and respond. Do not feel the need to fill the silence, they will respond eventually. If a young person does not respond to a question, after some time, you may ask someone else. But do not let them off the hook, come back to them later. You may say, “What did you think about that answer?”
At the end of each lesson there are several questions that should be used to emphasize the main points of the lesson. Take a few minutes to answer them. After asking a question, encourage the young people to go back through the lesson and review what they read. If needed, let them turn and discuss with someone sitting next to them to develop a proper response, then they can share out to the group. Remember, young people do not want to speak when they are not confident. We need to help them feel confident. If you notice they are struggling with a particular question, then try to break it down into smaller parts. As they answer the smaller part of the question correctly, praise them. Once you have a few responses to the smaller parts of the question, restate the question and have them piece together their responses to answer the full question.
MANAGE THE TIME:
Each group session is 45 minutes, which should be plenty of time to cover the video lesson & reading, have fellowship, prepare a prophecy and practice the memory verses. Be wise with the group time. For example, most days have two morning group times scheduled. You may save time toward the end of the first group time to practice the memory verses and time at the end of the second group time to prepare a prophecy. Also, pay attention to the time more closely for group times with two lessons.