SAMPLE
We hope you enjoy this complimentary sample
of The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better
Conversations with Teenage Guys, by Jeremy
Zach and Tom Shefchunas.
This sample contains the introduction, a portion
of the first chapter, and other details about the
book.
This book is part of a series of books for leading
better conversations (with kids, teenage girls, and
teenage guys). It is available at OrangeStore.org
and Amazon.
Visit OrangeBooks.com and ThinkOrange.com
for other books and resources for leaders and
volunteers.
For more details about this book
(or to purchase it)
please visit
OrangeStore.org
HOW TO LEAD
B E T T E R C O N V E R S AT I O N S
WITH TEENAGE GUYS
2
the art of group talk teenage guys
3
“Guys, I just love [deep voice crack]
this group.”
“Why did the Apostle Paul want to remain
single? That seems dumb to me.”
R I L E Y, 8 T H G R A D E
G AV I N , 1 1 T H G R A D E
“Hey, thanks for leading our group . . . even
though I never listened to you.”
“I don’t understand how Josiah was 8-yearsold and became king. I’m
12-years-old and I don’t even know
how to make my bed.”
J E F F, 8 T H G R A D E
PETER, 6TH GRADE
“Why do you want to lead our group?
Do you not have a life?”
S C O T T, 9 T H G R A D E
“The last time I had to ask someone for
forgiveness was when I carved my name into
the side of my dad’s car with a shovel.”
JACE, 11TH GRADE
“If I decide to get baptized, can I take my shirt
off so everyone can see my muscles?”
CHAD, 10TH GRADE
“I can really relate to King David
because he liked women and I really
like women too.”
M A T T, 1 2 T H G R A D E
The Art of Group Talk: Teen Guys
Published by Orange, a division of The reThink Group, Inc.
5870 Charlotte Lane, Suite 300
Cumming, GA 30040 U.S.A.
The Orange logo is a registered trademark of The reThink Group, Inc.
All rights reserved. Except for brief excerpts for review purposes,
no part of this book may be reproduced or used in any form
without written permission from the publisher.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from
the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright
© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by
permission of Zondervan.
Other Orange products are available online and direct from the
publisher. Visit our website at www.WhatIsOrange.org for more
resources like these.
ISBN: 978-1-63570-025-1
©2017 The reThink Group, Inc.
Writers: Jeremy Zach, Tom Shefchunas
Contributing Writers: Elle Campbell
Lead Small Editing Team: Mike Jefferies, CJ Palmer,
Ben Nunes, Brett Talley
Art Direction: Ryan Boon
Project Manager: Nate Brandt
Design: FiveStone
Printed in the United States of America
First Edition 2017
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
04/20/17
6
the art of group talk teenage guys
Table
of
Contents
7
10
INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER 1
16
PREPARE
CHAPTER 2
30
CONNECT
Before a teenage guy can connect with God,
he may need to connect with people
who are connected with God.
2.1 - Connect with them.
2.2 - Help them connect with each other.
CHAPTER 3
54
KNOW
Before a teenage guy can know God,
he may need to be known by people who
know God.
3.1 - Know them.
3.2 - Help them know each other.
CHAPTER 4
84
ENGAGE
Before a teenage guy can engage in a life of
authentic faith, he may need to engage
in a conversation about authentic faith.
4.1 - Speak less, listen more.
4.2 - Control less, lead more.
4.3 - Script less, improvise more.
CHAPTER 5
130
MOVE
136
CONCLUSION
140
AUTHOR BIOS
8
the art of group talk teenage guys
9
Foreword
This is a book about how to have better conversations with
teenage guys.
Because, as a small group leader, you lead a conversation with
teenage guys every single week. Conversations about . . .
their lives.
their dreams.
their friends.
their more-than-friends.
and their definitely-not friends.
create a
safe place
And sometimes, you even manage to lead conversations
about faith.
This is a book to remind you that your small group
conversations—even the ones that don’t go exactly as
planned—really matter.
But there are a few ways to make your conversations
matter even more.
clarify their
faith as
they grow
10
the art of group talk teenage guys
introduction
11
Introduction
Before I became an SGL, I expected to lead small group
conversations where every guy . . .
paid attention.
participated.
asked deep theological questions.
and simultaneously decided to give their lives to Jesus,
devote themselves to full-time ministry, and read the Bible
every day.
You probably signed up to be a small group leader (or SGL
for short) because you wanted . . .
to make a big difference.
to change the world.
to invest in a few teenage guys so you could help them
develop a lifelong, authentic kind of faith.
^ attempted to lead
But then I (Jeremy) led my first small group of middle
school guys and, well, you can guess how that went.
We call that leading small.
Maybe you didn’t know exactly what you were getting into
when you signed up to be an SGL, but you probably at
least knew this:
Leading a small group means leading a weekly small
group conversation.
Kind of obvious, right?
But the truth is, figuring out how to lead a conversation
with a group of teenage guys isn’t always obvious. It’s
definitely not like leading a conversation with a group of
adults.
I (Jeremy) learned this the hard way. When I signed up to
be an SGL, I had some pretty big expectations for how
those weekly small group conversations would go down. At
the time, I thought leading a small group of teenage guys
would be pretty much like leading a conversation with a
bunch of me’s—but smaller. And louder. And smellier.
If you’ve been an SGL for more than five minutes, then
you already know what I learned that day—that leading
a conversation with a group of teenage guys doesn’t
always live up to your expectations. (Especially if your
expectations looked anything like mine.)
If you have any SGL experience whatsoever, and it’s
probably safe to say that you know what it’s like to have a
small group conversation totally bomb.
Maybe you led a small group where your guys weren’t
exactly talkative.
You tried to get the conversation moving, but you were
met with . . .
the sound of crickets.
blank stares.
the backs of their phones as they tried a new Snapchat filter.
Or maybe they were a little too talkative.
Maybe you were forced to scream the discussion questions
at the top of your lungs while they . . .
discussed that weekend’s football game.
watched an Instagram video.
asked you to participate in a game that ends in arm
punches.
12
the art of group talk teenage guys
Or maybe they were just the right amount of talkative, but
you’re convinced your volunteer training didn’t prepare you
for the kinds of topics they wanted to talk about.
When leading a small group of teenage guys, sometimes
you have to beg them to say something—anything.
Other times, you wish they would lose the ability to
speak altogether.
And more often than you’d like, you probably head home
after a particularly challenging small group and wonder,
“Did I say the right thing?
Were they even listening?
Do these conversations matter at all?”
If you’ve ever been there, you’re not alone. Everyone who
has ever led a small group of teenage guys has, at some
point, wondered if they were completely wasting their
time. (We don’t exactly have the data to support this claim,
but we’re pretty sure it’s true.)
Especially on days when your group spends more time oneupping each other and discussing their favorite musical
artists than engaging in a conversation about faith, those
questions are understandable.
introduction
13
hugs, and gets saved (again). We mean every small group
conversation.
The one with way too many awkward silences? It mattered.
The one where you didn’t get through a single discussion
question? It mattered.
The one where your group wanted to know if God could
make a mozzarella stick so hot even He couldn’t eat it? It
mattered.
And the conversation you’re about to lead this week? Yep.
It’s going to matter, too.
The good news for SGLs like you and me is that the quality
and effectiveness of the conversation you’ll lead this week
won’t determine your ultimate success or failure as a small
group leader. Sometimes a conversation will bomb, and
that’s okay, because that one conversation isn’t the only
conversation you’ll ever have with your few.
In the book Lead Small, we talked about the importance
of showing up predictably—weekly, in fact—for your few.
Actually, it’s the very first thing we talked about. That’s
because showing up predictably, consistently, and regularly
in the lives of the teenage guys you lead is the foundation
of leading your small group (and of leading a small group
conversation).
Your small group conversations matter.
When you show up predictably, you begin to understand
that one conversation doesn’t determine your success as a
small group leader. Instead, you realize that your success
is actually determined by every small group conversation
you’ve ever had, added up and then multiplied by factors
we haven’t yet identified. Because when you combine
the dozens, or hundreds, or thousands* of conversations
you’ve had with your small group, they equal something
pretty significant. They equal . . .
And we don’t just mean those once-in-a-lifetime
conversations where everyone hides their tears, bro-
clearly not discovered group texting
But the next time a conversation goes completely off
the rails and you’re left wondering if you’re a terrible
small group leader—or if you think leading a small group
of teenage guys should be classified as a new form of
torture—there are two things we hope you’ll remember.
Here’s the first:
*
If “thousands of conversations” seems far-fetched, your small group has
14
the art of group talk teenage guys
Relationships.
Trust.
Influence.
So, you see, your small group conversations matter—even
those conversations that are difficult or frustrating, or that
don’t exactly go according to plan. They matter because
each of those weekly small group conversations are part of
something bigger.
Ten years from now, the guys in your small group will
probably not remember much of what was said during
your small group conversations. But they will remember
how those consistent, weekly conversations resulted in
relationships that made an impact on their lives. That’s the
power of showing up consistently.
So next time a small group conversation doesn’t quite
meet your expectations, remember: your small group
conversations matter—maybe more than you think.
But here’s the second thing we hope you remember:
Your small group conversations can matter more.
In fact, that’s what this book is all about—practical ideas
and strategies to help you make the most out of your
conversations with your small group.
introduction
15
conversations—conversations where the guys in your group
will not only be able to engage, but will be able to . . .
be themselves.
share their doubts.
ask tough questions.
share their struggles.
It isn’t always easy to lead those kinds of conversations,
though. So if you’ve ever looked at your small group of
teenage guys and wished you knew . . .
what to say
what not to say
what to ask
how to ask it
when to speak
when to listen
how to make them talk
how to make them stop talking
. . . then keep reading.
We don’t know everything about leading conversations for
teenage guys, but we’ve spent a lot of time leading small
groups, talking to other small group leaders, and learning
how to lead small groups better. And now we want to take
the things we’ve learned and share them with you. Things
that, we hope, will help you make the most of your limited
opportunities to lead a conversation with your small group.
While the one conversation you lead this week will not
determine your success as a small group leader, it will
affect it. The influence you’re building through your weekly
conversations is important, but if you never actually use
that influence to help your few build a more authentic faith
. . . then you have missed it.
So remember.
But you’re not going to miss it. We know that because
you’re reading a book about how to make your small
group conversations matter more, and that’s a pretty
good sign. You’re already on your way to leading better
But your small group conversations can matter more.
And here’s how . . .
Your small group conversations matter. They matter
because, with every conversation you lead, you’re building
influence, trust, and a relationship with your few that has
the potential to influence them for a lifetime.
16
17
1
chapter
one
prepare
18
the art of group talk teenage guys
Prepare
Picture this.
You just got out of work. It’s been a long day. Someone
yelled at you. And you’re starving. Plus, you spilled coffee
on your shirt this morning and you’ve been trying to hide it
by pretending to scratch the exact same spot on your neck
for the last six hours.
chapter 1 prepare
19
to fly through the church doors, desperately searching
your phone for the email from your student pastor about
what in the world you’re supposed to talk about in small
groups this week. During the message, you tried to skim
through the discussion questions, but you found it hard
to concentrate with your student pastor talking so much.
Then when you got to small group, you realized you didn’t
really hear much of the message and you couldn’t exactly
remember all the small group questions, so you read them
from your phone and just hoped for the best.
If we’re honest, we’ve all had weeks like that. It happens.
If you’ve been with your group for some time, they might
not have even noticed how much you were winging it. But
on your way home, you might have wondered, What kind
of conversation could we have had if I’d been just a little
more prepared?
But the day is finally over!
You head to your car and realize there’s a new episode of
your favorite podcast. (Win!) When you get home, you’re
going to change into sweats, make some dinner, and catch
up on the latest game. All’s right with the—
WAIT.
If you want to get serious about making your conversations
with your few matter more (and we know you do), then
we’ve got to talk about preparation because the first step
in leading a better small group conversation is to . . .
PREPARE
We know. We know!
What day is it?
Shoot.
You have to lead a small group in an hour.
Ever been there? We sure have. Now, don’t get us wrong.
We love our small groups. We care about them. We’re
committed to them. We want to have great conversations
together. But . . . well, we’re not always as prepared for our
conversations as we should be.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know what it’s like
You’re a volunteer. You don’t get paid to lead a small
group. You’ve inserted yourself into the tumultuous lives
of a few teenage guys and you’re going to get absolutely
nothing in return, except maybe a free T-shirt and some
sub-standard pizza. You’re already giving a ton of your
time by showing up and leading these conversations, and
now we’re suggesting you should spend time preparing for
those conversations, too?
Well, yes.
But it’s simple. We promise!
20
the art of group talk teenage guys
There are four things you can do to prepare for your small
group conversations each week. And you can do them all
from your couch.
If you want to prepare for your small group
conversation,
READ your email.
We know that email is outdated. That’s what our small
groups tell us anyway. But we’re not teenage guys. We’re
grown ups. And since we’re grown ups, we should probably
still be checking—and reading—our emails.
We don’t mean those forwarded emails your mom keeps
sending over and over. Those emails probably won’t help
you prepare for your small group.
We’re talking about emails from your student pastor.
chapter 1 prepare
But if you’ve checked, and double checked, and are
absolutely positive your student pastor doesn’t send you
a weekly email, try not to be too hard on them. We’re sure
they really want you to succeed as a small group leader! So
don’t get mad. If your student pastor doesn’t send you a
weekly email, try this . . .
1. Open your email app.
2. Write a new message to your student pastor.
3. Say something like this:
Hey ______! You know what would be really awesome?
I would love to get an email every week, maybe a few
days in advance, that helps me get ready for my small
group. I think my small group conversations could be
a lot better if I had a little time to think about what
we’re teaching and read my small group questions
before I get to small group. What do you think?
We may not know your student pastor, but we’re going to
assume a few things about what they do every week. we’re
guessing your student pastor, youth director, or coach . . .
cares about your small group conversation.
thinks about your small group conversation.
has a plan for your small group conversation.
emails you the plan for your small group conversation.
Pretty simple, right?
Hopefully, that email from your student pastor tells you
important information like what they’ll be teaching and
what you’ll be asking when you get to small group each
week.
If you already do this, way to go! You are a very prepared
SGL. And hey, here’s a thought: If you love getting those
emails in advance, take a second to hit “Reply” to your
student pastor’s weekly email and say, “Thanks!” They’ll
love to hear their weekly emails aren’t disappearing into
inbox oblivion.
Ring any bells?
No?
Then you probably need to update your contact
information in the church database or check your Recently
Deleted folder.
21
And if your student pastor already sends you a weekly
email, your job is even easier:
1. Open their email.
2. Read it.
If you want this week’s small group conversation to matter
more, you need to know what the small group conversation
will be about—you know, before you walk in the door.
Prepare for your small group conversation.
READ YOUR EMAIL.
22
the art of group talk teenage guys
If you want to prepare for your small group
conversation,
REHEARSE what you’ll say.
Have you ever had an imaginary conversation?
Sure you have. Maybe it was when you were . . .
getting ready for a first date.
preparing for a tough conversation with a friend.
thinking of some killer comebacks for that troll on
Facebook.
Having imaginary conversations simply means mentally
rehearsing what you’re going to say before you say it.
Imaginary conversations are helpful when you’re preparing
for a date and they’re helpful when you’re preparing for
your not-so-imaginary small group conversations, too.
We’re not saying you should memorize lines or write a
monologue for your small group conversation. In fact,
please don’t. We’re just saying that what you say can
probably be said better if you rehearse what you’re
going to say (or not say) before you say it.
Just like . . .
a surgeon practices before a procedure
a lawyer practices for a trial
a pilot practices in a flight simulator
you should practice for your small group conversation.
As an SGL, having an imaginary conversation means trying
to anticipate how your small group conversation will go
before small group so you’ll be less likely to be caught offguard during small group.
So how do you do that? Well, once you’ve read your email
from your student pastor, ask yourself a few questions
about what they’ll be teaching, like . . .
chapter 1 prepare
•
•
•
23
What do my guys know, think, or feel about this topic?
How does this topic relate to specific situations in their
lives right now?
Could this topic raise any challenging questions or
strong opinions?
Next, take a look at your small group questions for the
week and ask yourself a few questions about what you’ll
be discussing, like . . .
•
•
•
•
•
Will these small group questions make sense to them?
How are my guys going to answer these questions?
Will they feel comfortable answering them honestly?
Do I need to rephrase any of these questions for my
group?
Is there anyone in my group I need to connect with
before we have this conversation?
See? It’s simple, but it’s so important! When you have a
weekly imaginary conversation with yourself, you’ll be able
to better . . .
clarify your thoughts.
refine your words.
anticipate their responses.
lead the conversation.
Remember if you want this week’s small group conversation
to matter more, you want to think about how the
conversation will go before the conversation begins.
Prepare for your small group conversation.
REHEARSE WHAT YOU’LL SAY.
24
the art of group talk teenage guys
chapter 1 prepare
25
If you want to prepare for your small group
conversation,
PACK a survival kit.
If you want to prepare for your small group
conversation,
PRAY for your few.
No, we don’t mean bandages and disinfectant (although,
with teenagers, that’s actually not a bad idea).
If you’re anything like us, praying for your small group is,
unfortunately, sometimes more of an afterthought than a
vital part of your weekly preparation. Some weeks, you
may only manage a hurried, well-intentioned plea to God
on the way to small group. Other weeks, the only time you
pray for your few is during your small group.
We mean the kind of supplies that will help you
rescue your small group conversation in the event of
emergencies like . . .
out of control extroverts.
awkward silences.
irrelevant rabbit trails.
general chaos.
We’ll talk about how to use these supplies later in
this book. Just look for this symbol. For now, just
trust us. You’ll need:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
A confetti popper
A stack of icebreaker questions
A noisemaker
A stress ball
A deck of cards
A zipper lock bag
Pens
Paper
Remember, if you want this week’s small group
conversation to matter more, you want to be ready for
anything. Prepare for your small group conversation.
PACK A SURVIVAL KIT.
But no matter how many times you’ve prayed for your few
in the last week, month, or year, we’ve discovered there
are at least two reasons why praying for your small group
should be an every-week kind of thing.
Pray for your few because they need it. Being a teenage
guy is hard. Like, really hard. Besides school, sports, drama,
breakups, gossip, and everything else your small group is
dealing with this week, every teenage guy is also wrestling
with big questions about who they are, why they matter,
what they believe, and who they’ll become. That’s a lot for
any teenager to manage. So as you prepare for your small
group each week, don’t forget to pray for your few. They
need it.
But there’s another reason you should pray for your few.
Pray for your few because you need it. When you pray
for someone else, it’s usually because you want God to do
something for them. But what if, when God told us to pray
for each other (which He did quite often), He had a second
purpose in mind? What if He designed prayer in such a way
that praying for someone else didn’t just result in change
for them? What if it changes us, too?
When we pray for someone else, we learn to . . .
consider their needs.
imagine their world.
26
the art of group talk teenage guys
feel their emotions.
understand their perspective.
In other words, when you pray for your the teenagers
you lead, you develop more compassion for them. And
as an SGL, you’ll need that compassion when . . .
the conversation bombs.
someone rolls their eyes.
they ask a tough question.
confidentiality gets broken.
As you prepare for your small group, don’t let prayer be
an afterthought. Make it a habit. Remember if you want
this week’s small group conversation to matter more, you
want to have a conversation with God before you have a
conversation with your few. Prepare for your small group
conversation. PRAY FOR YOUR FEW.
So there you have it. Four ways to prepare for your small
group conversation every week. We said it would be
simple, right?
Read your email.
Rehearse what you’ll say.
Pack a survival kit.
Pray for your few.
And now that you’re (mostly) prepared for your small group
conversation, let’s talk about how to lead that conversation.
chapter 1 prepare
27
QUIZ:
HOW WELL DO YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR
SMALL GROUP?
Throughout this book you’ll find a few quizzes that we’ve
created as self-evaluation tools. Write in your answers (or
just think them), and at the end of this book, you’ll be able
to see which areas of group conversation you’re stellar at
as well as the areas you might have a little room to grow in.
Answer honestly and have fun!
Did you get an e-mail from your student pastor this
week? Did you read it?
140
the art of group talk teenage guys
section header
author
bios
141
142
the art of group talk teenage guys
Author bios
author bios
143
JEREMY ZACH
Jeremy, or “JZ,” spent 9 years as a
paid, professional youth pastor in
the local church. He received my
BA in Communication Studies from
University of Minnesota and my
MDIV (Masters of Divinity) from Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
Now Jeremy is a XP3 OS and gets to
spend most of his days connecting
and resourcing student pastors all
around the country. Jeremy has been
married to Mikaela for 8 years and he
has 2 daughters and 2 calico cats. A
few things that he enjoys are hot, hot
sauce, YouTube cat videos, and loud
EDM music.
TOM SHEFCHUNAS
Tom Shefchunas, or “Shef” as most
people call him, has worked with
students for over 20 years. He has
been a teacher, a coach, a high school
principal, and a father. Currently, Shef
is the North Point Ministries MultiCampus Director of Middle School for
North Point Ministries. His passions
involve working with, recruiting, and
developing the hundreds of volunteer
small group leaders it takes to pull off
Transit (North Point Ministries’ middle
school environments). Shef and his
wife Julie live in Cumming, Georgia
with their three kids. Shef also loves
developing leaders outside of North
Point and can be reached at www.
Coachshef.com.
144
the art of group talk teenage guys
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ABOUT LEAD SMALL
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Leading a conversation with a small group
of teenage guys isn’t always easy
Actually, if you’ve been a small group leader for at least five minutes, you probably
already know what it’s like for a small group conversation to totally bomb.
So if you’ve ever looked at your small group of teenage guys and wished you knew
what to say, what not to say, when to speak, when to listen, how to make them talk,
how to make them stop talking then this book is for you.
with teenage guys. Because, as a small group leader, you lead a conversation with
teenage guys every single week. Conversations about their lives, their dreams, their
friends, their imaginary friends, and their definitely-not friends.
And sometimes you even manage to lead conversations about faith.
really matter.
But there are a few ways to make your conversations
matter even more.
With personal insight and practical advice, Jeremy Zach and Tom Shefchunas will help
you discover helpful tips and strategies for surviving leading conversations with your
small group of teenage guys.
ZACH & SHEFCHUNAS
This is a book to remind you that your small group conversations—
even the ones that don’t go exactly as planned—
TEENAGE GUYS
The Art of Group Talk helps small group leaders like you have better conversations
The art of group talk
Sometimes they talk too much – way too much. Sometimes they don’t talk enough.
And sometimes you’re pretty sure your volunteer training didn’t quite prepare you for
the sort of things they’d like to talk about.