I would call this the stage where young people attempt to poke the bear. They question leadership and authority, look for clear direction and identified team roles and share opinions that may be conflicting.
Peter Barnes (2002:43) says some of the following things should be expected during the Storming stage of group development:
- Opinions may become sharply divided
- Leadership’s authority is questioned and/or challenged
- Arguments become the primary method for communication
- Several leaders will attempt to control the group
If you tried some of our suggestions during the Forming stage, you may find that your youth’s time in the Storming stage of youth group development isn’t as challenging as it might have been.
Each group is different though and the best plans don’t always happen the way you’d like in youth work. Here are a few suggestions to try during the Storming stage of group development that may help your youth move through to the next stage:
- Take the time to encourage and explore differing opinions within the group. Use the group agreement you created earlier to provide the necessary boundaries for the discussion.
- Be prepared to hand over some, most, or all of the leadership roles depending on the age, maturity and responsibilities of your youth by teaching them about the ladder of participation.
- Encourage dialogue between group members and allow time and space when discussions get heated. Don’t force youth who are getting progressively more angry or aggressive to remain in the same room. Find activities for them to do in other areas, give a break time or allow a youth to step out of the room to get some air.
- Identify the group’s strengths and weaknesses and assign team roles. Take the time to identify everyone’s strengths and have the group take part in the decision process when choosing a leader. If you have a youth who has leadership qualities but also has some serious areas of weakness like aggression management issues, find ways to encourage them to take another role within the team. This will ensure that the leader chosen is the best choice for the group, not just the most liked, most decisive or the most feared.
We will be talking more about team roles, group agreements and finding out about the learning styles and intelligences of your youth group in the coming weeks, so check back for more information on these topics.
The Storming Stage of group development in youth work can be a challenging period, but if you take the time to put the supportive measures in place during the Forming Stage, you’ll find it runs more smoothly than if you just ‘let nature take its course.’
Provide boundaries and a safe space for the disagreements that are likely to happen. Don’t be surprised or disappointed. Disagreements will happen. Remember that they are necessary for creating a more trusting, cohesive group that begins to work well together in the Norming Stage of Group Development, which we will discuss in detail next week.
Question: What stories do you have from the Storming Stage of your work with youth? Please share them in the comments below.
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