In this episode, I talk with Ashley Bohinc, Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange. Ashley and I have a great conversation about engaging middle school students in large group and small group settings. She shares practical tools for inviting them into conversations, and affirming the way they think and interact with others during this unique phase. And, she unpacks what it looks like to connect and build relationships with these students in order to have maximum impact on the next generation and their faith.

Ashley Bohinc

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Volunteer Playbook Group – Registration closes Friday, February 5th

The Volunteer Playbook Group is a 10-week challenge where you'll spend time each week diving into teaching, working on projects, and sharing resources to help you grow your volunteer team. Learn more about the Volunteer Playbook Group and register at

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Episode 027: Tom Shechunas on Volunteer Coaches and Metrics in Ministry

XP3 CurriculumOrange's curriculum and resources for middle and high school students

Think Orange Podcast – A podcast designed to equip ministry leaders as they seek to serve families and reach the next generation for Jesus

Rethinking Youth Ministry Podcast – A podcast for youth ministry leaders, volunteers, and others seeking to reach the next generation and help students own their own faith

8 Hacks to Managing a Roomful of Teenagers (blog post) – Eight practical tips for communicating with and engaging middle and high school students

Lead Small (book) – The five things every small group leader should know

The Art of Group Talk (books) – How to Lead Better Conversations with Kids; How to Lead Better Conversations with Teenage Guys; How to Lead Better Conversations with Teenage Girls

Communicating for a Change (book) – Andy Stanley shares seven keys to irresistible communication

Tips for Engaging Middle School Students in Large Group

  1. The more you let them go, the easier they come back to you
  2. Change the pace and volume of how you're talking
  3. Plan for times where you encourage them to talk and interact
  4. Keep it short and simple
  5. Allow your emotions to show
  6. Show a prop, share stories, incorporate YouTube videos, and make it interactive

Tips for Engaging Middle School Students in Small Group

  1. Show up consistently and randomly in order to establish a consistent connection
  2. Invite students to come up with group rules
  3. Affirm that they want to talk and guide them in their conversation
  4. Give talkative kids a specific job or role
  5. With phones, meet them where they are, and then have a time when all of you put your phones away
  6. Give them options and make them feel like decisions are their ideas
  7. Ask open ended questions vs. close ended questions

Action Items

  1. Get The Art of Group Talk books and share them with your leaders
  2. Do an in-depth critique of your next gathering, and create an environment for feedback

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Next Episode: Dr. Michelle Anthony

In the next episode, I talk with Dr. Michelle Anthony, about her book, Spiritual Parenting. We also break down what family ministry looks like at her church and the unique things they are doing to partner with parents.