For a teacher, that long, dead silence after asking a question can seem awkward at best, and feel disastrous at worst (cue cartoon “bombs away” whistle). Thankfully, there’s one thing you can do that works nearly 100 percent of the time:
Smile and wait.
A lingering hush can make just about anyone feel uncomfortable. That’s why, during conversations, it takes less than 3 seconds for most people to jump in to fill a silence (and that’s being generous). It’s true with adults, and it’s true with preteens, too. In fact, the average Sunday school teacher doesn’t even get to 3 seconds. On average, leaders only wait 1.8 seconds before moving on to a new question. That’s just not enough time for preteens to think.
In a group setting, a little bit of silence should be expected. BE BOLD asks tough questions, and kids need time to think about their answers. In fact, preteens are often deciding what they believe in real time.
Also, being the first one to brave a response can take a fair amount of courage, especially for kids at this age. Give their brains room to think without distraction.
It can be challenging to resist the temptation to jump in too soon, or to offer your own answers before kids get the chance to share their own thoughts. But you must resist that temptation, especially if you want kids to own their discoveries.
Here’s a helpful tip for handling the silence. In your head, calmly count to 8. More often than not, the kids will have already ventured into the conversation by themselves. At the end of 8 seconds if no one has shared an answer yet, it might be a good idea to rephrase the question or give examples that help get preteens thinking.