Have you ever noticed the wall of stacked T-shirts at the Gap, where every single shirt is folded into the exact same perfectly sized square? If you were to walk into Afton Phillip’s closet, can you guess what you’d find? Okay, you probably wouldn’t find a perfectly stacked, artfully arranged group of T-shirts. Why? Because Afton wasn’t allowed to keep that cool little square thing she used as an employee at the Gap back in high school. But if she still had it, you can bet she’d use it.

Afton loves order. She’s the first to admit that when she walks into a room, she thinks, Everything in here is perfect, except for that one pillow on the couch that’s askew. That need to take order and structure everywhere she goes doesn’t always gel with life. Or small groups. And there’s the real rub for Afton. Because she LOVES small groups. She’s been leading small groups of kids since high school. She majored in children’s ministry in college and landed her first church staff job three days after graduation (as the Sunday evening service coordinator for the elementary small group environment at Browns Bridge Church). Small groups and the chaos that surrounds them have been a part of Afton’s life for as long as she can remember.

In her current position as director of the lead small strategy at Orange, Afton’s primary role is to encourage and equip small group leaders. As she’s traveled across the country on Orange Tour and listened to leaders, she’s noticed one big need. And it’s something she wants to be better at, too. How do you bring order and structure to the chaos that is a group of eight squirming eight-year-olds? And more specifically, how do you master the art of conversation among that small group? Because leading a conversation with kids isn’t the same as leading a conversation with adults. Afton knows this first hand as she sits with her own squirming group of second graders every Sunday, a group she’s led since kindergarten.

And so The Art of Group Talk for leaders of kids was written. Fueled by coffee and as few distractions as possible, Afton set out to write a practical, helpful, and useable guide for leading better conversations with your few. As leaders apply the simple principles within these pages, Afton knows that an order and structure will emerge. And in the end, maybe those crazy conversations that start as a silly story will land with a timeless truth that kids will remember always. Maybe The Art of Group Talk will work for small group conversations just like that plastic T-shirt square did for those T-shirts years ago. Afton thinks that would be cool. But you’ll still need to straighten that pillow.

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