Book Review - The Art Of Group Talk: How To Lead Better Conversations with Kids

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.  In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.

In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

Because before a kid can know God, they may need to be known by someone who knows God.
— The Art of Group Talk pg. 76

I just finished The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids after returning from #OC17 (Orange Conference) and I could not be more satisfied with what the book had to offer. If you have been a follower of the Orange strategy regarding small groups, which they call Tribes, then the content will be very familiar to you and almost sound like a repeating voice. This is what I have come to really appreciate from the Lead Small material, the content and strategy when it comes to implementing a small group mentality in your ministry.

Their first offering was Lead Small and it was the core content of the small group strategy that was considered essential in reaching kids and students not just with Biblical content, but by growing meaningful relationships with those in your small group.

The second book was Creating a Lead Small Culture and this took the core strategy and broke it down so a leader could see how to make the necessary tweaks to their ministry to implement the strategy. It was a great resource to use with core leaders who help shape the culture of your ministry. There was a great reading group and discussion guide that also helped take the content and personalize it for your ministry. I posted about this discussion guide here:

Book Study: Starting Over

The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids, shares with small group leaders how the strategy plays out in the conversations and the culture of your small group. It points to the importance of knowing your tribe so that life is shared and kids feel safe. It is a quick read, but the resulting change and comfort for small group leaders is worth the time.

Because before a kid can ENGAGE in a life of authentic faith, they may need you to ENGAGE them in a conversation about authentic faith.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 85

What I enjoyed about the book is that it states that the current phase of a child is just a piece in their development and that leaders need to be aware that development and growth in a child must be viewed from a larger context. Yes, what you do each week matters but it is what all these weeks add up to over time that shapes who a child becomes.

You’re a small group leader. So your destination isn’t just to help them learn or remember what they’ve heard from the stage. Your destination is to help your few personalize and apply what they’ve heard.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 101

Another great practical piece to The Art of Group Talk is the quiz section at the end of each chapter. These are practical questions to allow the reader to look at how they lead and how they can make small shifts to lead their few well.

Anyone who leads a small group would benefit from this book and its practical tips for having meaningful conversations with the kids and students that are in their tribe.

Lead Small
By Reggie Joiner, Tom Shefchunas

Start Here

Accepting Christ as your Savior is always a moment for celebration, but when we see our kids wanting to make this decision, it’s a wonderful thing! However, it is something that usually happens away from mom and dad (in Sunday school or during summer camp) and it is our goal to not only have the conversation with the parents, but to help them to make it a family celebration. We don’t want them to miss out. There are so many family discussions and moments that can take place during this “process of discovery” for a child. To also note, there are some circumstances whereby the child might not be celebrated at home for their decision and, in those instances, our goal is that the child's small group leader will walk with them as they process what having a Saviour means to them. 

One parent described the process of discussing the decision of accepting Christ as Savior:

Sometimes I get stuck in my own head as I talked with my kids about accepting Christ. It is such an important decision that I want them to make for themselves. When my kids asks my about Jesus and how to accept Him as their Saviour and I am caught off guard, or distracted I get flustered and begin to over-spiritualize the conversation to a point that my kids do not understand. I start using church language instead of having an age appropriate and child-friendly conversation.

How do I make sure that my child understands the importance of this decision and at the same time talk to them in a way they understand?

Another parent asked us:

How often should I talk to my kids about accepting Christ? I see that they are asking good questions, but I do not want them to feel like I am pressuring them, or have them start to ignore me because I have asked them too often.

I love the simplicity and clarity of the “Start Here” program as it guides parents through this process. The “Start Here” program is a tangible, simple brochure that helps the parent walk with the child in their decision, and it’s all centered around a verse that many of us know and teach our kids.

We even have parents who wonder if they ask too much about their child’s walk – or lack thereof – with Christ. Our curriculum 252 Basics uses an easy to read and understand version of this message, and this is the basis of the “Start Here” program: 

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.
— John 3:16 NIrV

The parent literature that comes with “Start Here” is fully customizable and editable, and is a wonderful starting point for your ministry to equip parents. It also addresses a family Q&A to guide and direct the conversation towards the end goal. Our leaders will soon be equipped with this material to ensure that conversations happening in our small-group time, that the messaging is consistent, and that the parental until is provided with easy follow-up. 

In the end, how well parents, volunteers and leaders are equipped to have important conversations is essential in how the Gospel message is clearly shared. “Start Here” covers all of these and we can’t wait to see how our ministry and families benefit from the conversations that are encouraged through it. 


Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Oftentimes, parenting can be a struggle full of love. Rather than being another “how-to be a better parent” book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity focuses on how parents can fortify their parenting capacity by engaging their family in God’s story to the world. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity also has a wealth of helpful insights for those who are hoping to be parents one day, those who are preparing to soon be parents, for grand-parents, those who work with parents, have friends that are parents, or for those that are influencers in children’s lives.

The core of the book is divided into five key family values.

1) Widen the circle

2) Imagine the end

3) Fight for the heart

4) Create a rhythm

5) Make it personal

Biblically based from Deuteronomy 6, the values and verses work hand-in-hand. Moses discusses in Deuteronomy 6 that God intended for family and faith-community alike that it takes a village mentality to raise spiritually-healthy children. Through this partnership of family and community mentors, God’s bigger story begins to unfold:

“Your children one day will seek affirmation and approval from adults other than you. Either you can become intentional about enlisting other trusted adults to influence your kids, or you can depend only on your limited capacity. You can leave them alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them protectively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.”

If our kids engage Christ with genuine and excited hearts, there is an even better chance that the family relationship can be used to witness to other friends and family – to a world that yearns to be restored. Honorable mention: There is no guilt trip regarding your parenting skills. The authors’ hope is to share the concept that the goal of parenting is not to impress others with your amazing parenting skills, but it is to instill within your children the love and nature of God.