It never fails. You’re
in the middle of a great discussion and someone farts. It starts a laughter
train that leads to even more distractions. Then you just want to throw up your
hands and quit.
The “awkward moments”
come in all different shapes and sizes.
- Inappropriate comments
- Uncomfortable silences
- A bat flying into the room
- Invasively personal questions
- Offensive responses
- Excessive talking
- A dog barking uncontrollably
- Phones being a distraction
- Rabbit trail conversations
So what’s the best way
to handle these situations?
- Breathe. Give yourself a few
seconds before responding.
- Acknowledge the awkward.
- Steer slowly. When a train gets
“off track” you don’t want to jerk the steering wheel, you want to
gradually bring it back on track.
- If you get asked a question you
don’t know the answer to, admit that you don’t know, but you would love to
think about it more and get back to them.
- You can also do what Jesus did,
and answer questions with a question.
- If you have a few students who
are dominating the conversation, say “let’s hear from someone who hasn’t
shared much” after you ask a question.
- If a comment is made that is
not on subject, say “that would be great to talk about after
Campaigners/cabin time” or something similar.
- When there is silence, it’s ok
to just sit in that silence and pray and let it be. Often, folks need that
silence in order to process. Acknowledge that you are comfortable with the
awkward silence (even if you aren’t) and say that it is okay for the group
to be silent together.
- If it stays silent for too
long, say what you are thinking, just to get the ball rolling. If you are
vulnerable, the students will see that and often be more willing to
Tips to help prevent
awkward situations (not a guaranteed fix but can definitely help)
- Make sure to establish “ground
rules” at the beginning, such as:
is said here stays here, unless you are at risk of being harmed or
harming someone else. (Talk to your YL staff to better understand this
person talks at a time so the group can hear everyone and because what
you say is important.
don’t say anything that can be offensive, mean, or demeaning. Let’s be
Have a talking stick, a
sock, or something to throw around that gives the person holding it the
opportunity to talk. This helps the group speak one at a time and also can give
everyone the opportunity to talk. This particularly helps with middle school
Have a snack or
something to eat at the beginning. This helps limit the “I’m hungry” comments
and can give the group more energy.
With younger kids, it
can help to have something to keep their hands occupied such as Play-Doh or
friendship bracelet string. This calms their nerves, limits the fidgets, and
help their minds focus on the conversation and questions.
God has taught me that
those awkward moments and silences I encounter are times where He wants me to
be still, listen, and to let Him be the guide. If we step back, be a
facilitator, and allow space, God will always show up!
What other tips would
you add? Email us here.
Here are some more helpful thoughts on How to
Lead Cabin Time.
Written by Marissa Brogden.
Marissa is currently on Young Life staff in Livermore, CA, focusing on developing Young Life and Wyldlife in her area. Marissa recently served with Young Life Military/ Club Beyond in Germany and unashamedly loves reality TV shows and boy bands.