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 share.
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:
- What 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 concept.)
- One person talks at a time so the group can hear everyone and because what you say is important.
- Please don’t say anything that can be offensive, mean, or demeaning. Let’s be encouraging.·
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 groups.
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.