First Things First
1. The content of this site has been taken, developed and created from various sources. Some is original, much is based on or copied from stuff I have seen and used.
2. This web site is not definitive - the work sheets are not definitive and do not guarantee success. Please use them is you want to, leave them, modify them. This site is a resource, a starter, a way of helping, enabling and hopefully inspiring you
3. I recognise not all can read well so (discreet) help may often be needed. I have tried to include games and sheets that don't require too many or too difficult words. Don't publicly highlight weaknesses or character flaws. Take people aside wherever possible.
4. One of my key lessons in 8 years as a youth leader at a church is always welcome people in and always say bye when they leave. It makes such a difference. Imagine you walked into a room and no-one said hi - how would that make you feel!!
5. Location is important - think about what you can use - we use a youth club in the same estate as the school but about half a mile away. The club is an excellent venue and has a kitchen and other activities on offer. I would strongly recommend not using a building on school property as you are less likely to get people to attend.
6. Community. Build a sense of community in your group. There's a real trend towards young people wanting and needing to belong. If you can offer a positive group to belong to you may minimise the influence of other more negative groups. More than this, you can offer real care. This, in turn, will positively affect behaviour and outcomes.
7. A thought - what about young people in your area who don't attend school or who can't attend due to various reasons like school refusing, lack of parent support, agoraphobic etc. How can you help them? Can you do a group for them?
This is a list of (some) ideas and ways to manage a group and encourage engagement.
1. Very clear communication. You are responsible for telling people what is going to happen and how it happens. Your communication skills must be up-front, confident and extremely clear. Watch a video of yourself if you'd like to improve. A clear, confident voice helps. As does clear eye contact around the room. Use your movement to reflect your actions. For example, if you want quiet, stop moving, put your hand up etc.
2. Get youth leaders or workers to sit in between groups or with groups/individuals. If you've got 8 young people and 4 leaders, try to sit 2 young people then 1 leader etc.
3. Another management technique is to break down a group into smaller more manageable groups. Break down into lads and lasses - you often get better work (less showing off!)
4. If 1 person is behaving badly and refuses to leave then move everyone else out of the room away from that person until they calm down, kick off on their own or leave!
5. Make sure there is a clear purpose to the group and that the group know the purpose. If not it can mean you're fire-fighting or crowd-controlling all the time!
6. Take people aside at a convenient time and challenge them fairly and firmly about whatever behaviour they are displaying. Ask them if anything is going on - you may find a situation away from the group is causing them concern. It may be they just don't want to engage!
7. The weather plays a major part in behaviour. As you'll probably realise, a very hot room produces hot and lively behaviour. Alternatively, if it's windy it can make young people hyper. If it's been raining a lot and they haven't been out (or if they simply don't go out much) think how you can channel excess energy!
8. Diet, food also plays a part in behaviour. A poor diet, lack of fruit, vegetables, vitamins or too much caffeine, e-numbers etc. can have an impact on behaviour. How can you deal with this? Remember that lectures on diet don't go down well!!
9. A final point is have high expectations and communicate these to the group regularly. However, don't expect miracles. A lot of them have complex lives as you'll know.
1. Ask how people are, what kind of week they have had etc.
2. Go round the room and say your name and where you're from
3. Add to the above by saying your favourite food, where you'd like to go on holiday, what you had for breakfast, who you'd want to go on holiday with, something interesting about you, your favourite song, band etc.
4. Get pieces of paper and write down 5 things about you - 1 of them is a lie - get everyone else to guess which one the lie is - person by person
5. Give out pieces of paper and get everyone to put something down about themselves that no-one else knows. Then put the paper in the middle, read out the papers one by one and decide who is who!
6. Get a list of paper with words and get people/teams to put them in order - for example, list some drugs and get people to put them in order of how dangerous they are
7. What about a game of asking the 'best of' and 'worst of' such as Christmas presents
8. A fun game is the 'dream game'. One person leaves the room and returns to be told the rest of the group have made up a dream the volunteer has had. The volunteer is invited to guess the dream using questions that the rest of the group can only answer 'yes' or 'no' to.
Unknown to the volunteer no dream has been made up, the group is simply going to answer 'no' then 'no' then 'yes' to each question the volunteer asks. It is very funny, potentially!
9. Get 2 people to talk together and then feedback about the other person
10. Get people to write or draw something about what they expect to achieve from the group, what annoys them about having to come to the group and where they see themselves in 5 years
Group Work Hints
1. Groups take a while to gel together. There may also be a period of natural wastage. Don't worry. There will also be people who leave and then want to come back. That's also fine up to a point - the point of the 'point' is up to you!
2. I have run a group for those being bullied or school strugglers! This group has increased in size from 5 to 8 and it has affected group dynamics. Be careful about adding to the group. My advice is either let no-one else join or let the group decide. More recently we have had people leave the group so we decided as a group to let others join.
3. As group dynamics change, decide whether the focus of the group will remain or whether you will change aims to reflect the new dynamic. Obviously there are difficulties and positives either way. List them on paper or in your head.
3. The group often needs rules - if only that what is said is confidential (except for child protection obviously). Get the group to sit down and decide the rules, discipline and rewards. Click here for an example of ours..
4. Sometimes groups are dominated by certain people. Try to give everyone time but don't either stop the dominant ones speaking or force / embarrass the quiet ones. If you are planning games that may embarrass people, try to do them so they have the same outcome but don't embarrass. If the game's not working, quit! To get people to 'talk' do anonymous drop-box type opportunities so opinions can be expressed and questions asked.
5. If the group is going well in a session, keep going if you can! If it needs to finish early then finish - be sensitive to the needs around you
6. Power of testimony - be aware of boundaries but personal life examples or from others can really help - for example in the team work section give examples of teams you have been in that succeeded and failed - and why!