students online in crisis

9 Tips to Connecting Students in Small Groups during the Crisis

After a few great weeks of connections in our new normal of Zoom Sunday School, yesterday felt disconnected. This week we had three guests, of which, two were first-timers. Overall, things are looking good, but this past Sunday was a little stale.

The students just were just not into it! They responded slowly or not at all. I know, some days are just like that. But what can we as student leaders do now that the original excitement of meeting online is gone?

Here are some tips from youth pastors that I gathered via a Facebook post on the Georgia Student Ministry Network page and some ideas of my very own.

Tips for leading a small group online:

Remember that new faces in a small group might create a new social dynamic. This could be in the form of a new teacher or partner leader or through new members or guests. Don’t forget that you can still ask your students to invite friends to the meeting. You can give your partner leaders a roll each week. Let a panel of students and adults teach the class. Change it up!

Divide the lesson up and let different class members lead specific sections of the lessons or a game. You might need to give your student this assignment in advance.

Try a Watch Party on Facebook instead of Sunday School and have someone lead a discussion about the video you watch together. All this takes is looking up a video or devotion on Facebook and simply clicking “Create Watch Party.” The great thing about this feature is that you can easily engage with your students at the same time – as you watch the video, you can comment and share together in real time.

Share a Bible story and ask related questions:

  1. What in the story grabbed your attention?
  2. What did you learn about God?
  3. What did you learn about people?
  4. With whom do you identify in this story?
  5. What will you remember from our time together today?
  6. What will you do in response to this story? (Thanks to Adam Cain, Bethlehem Baptist Church Newnan)

Ask students to post pictures as a response to questions, as part of a game, or maybe just as a way to communicate they are engaged. (Thank you David Spires from FBC Daren.) Consider doing this on Instagram as a challenge. Students are more likely to have an Instagram account than Facebook. But, you can always do a quick poll of your group and find out what social networks they use the most.

Move the Sunday school time to a different time or day. (Thank you Bill Hughes, Priscilla Baptist Church, FL.)

Ask students to pick inspirational videos to show during the class. Pro tip: You might want to watch these before showing then to the class. Some surprises aren’t good!

Ask students offline to help you in class, communicate with them the importance of interaction. Choose a few students who you feel have leadership potential or skills and let them know you’ll pass a question their way. It can be prearranged, but student engagement is more likely to build if a few are already involved.

Try giving students a listening sheet. At the end, you can ask them to take a picture of their sheet and send it to you to win a prize or drawing.

Small group leadership is really easy … sometimes.

But every group has a bad day, and a growing group or visitors will have noticeable changes on the social dynamics of the class. The goal is now – as it was before the crisis – to stay focused on connecting with the students and sharing God’s word. The goal is difficult at times but worthy of our energy and sometimes new ideas.

You may find supporting ideas in our Coronavirus blog. Here are a few to check out:

Published April 8, 2020