To ensure believers are growing and maturing in their faith, it is imperative that leaders have a good understanding of how diverse people process life. In a small group setting, the aim is not to emulate a Sunday meeting, which is usually a monologue. In fact, the aim is the exact opposite. In a small group, the leader would put emphasis on relationships being built in a smaller more intimate environment. Maturity would result as the leader places an emphasis on every person being involved in processing and discussing the topic at hand.
What Elements Ensure Helpful Discussion?
GOAL – What are you aiming to achieve as a result of the discussion? This should filter the conversation along the way.
RELEVANT – Can the majority identify with what is being discussed?
INTERACTIVE – Have the majority contributed of their own accord without being primed due to the questions being thought-provoking and meeting the felt needs of the group?
ACTION – The success of the discussion is seen in people taking a new step of faith and a change of lifestyle as a result of the discussion.
SOME HELPFUL THOUGHTS TO CONSIDER WHEN FACILITATING A DISCUSSION:
1. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS IN THE RIGHT ORDER
Shallow/fun questions that lead on to deeper more vulnerable questions Open-ended questions stimulate far greater discussion – ie. Describe what you feel…
2. CONSIDER THE SIZE OF THE GROUP
- Too big – people may clam up and feel too shy to participate
- Creating sub-groups that are led by others in the group provides a wonderful platform to bring through leaders
- Creating sub-groups 3. PICK UP ON PEOPLE’S RESPONSES (ACTIVE LISTENING)
- People’s answers reveal who they are, where they come from, what they’ve encountered, their theology
4. CONSIDER HOW TO START THE DISCUSSION
- Answering around the circle can be intimidating at times
- Picking on people can make people feel insecure.
- Don’t be afraid of silence
5. GIVE THE DISCUSSION A TIME LIMIT
- Discussions can go on for too long
- The time limit gives people an understanding as to how the leader intends the meeting going 6. TALK AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
- You have an unfair advantage, you’ve been thinking about the answers to the questions
- Drawing the conclusion too early doesn’t help the group ‘chew’ on the topic
7. BEWARE OF THE ‘SHIP-SINKER’ QUESTIONS
Eg. Why does God allow suffering? With the natural disasters we are seeing, do you think the world is going to end soon? How to respond?
- Does anyone else have some thoughts?
- Why don’t you go and research it and give us some feedback
- Great question, maybe we can deal with it sometime?
8. BEWARE OF THE ‘DOMINATOR’
- Put him on a short leash
- Interject when he takes a breath
- If he/she is core, talk to them, train them for their future as a possible leader one day
9. CELEBRATE PEOPLE’S COURAGE
- Make a fuss of shy people talking, people being vulnerable
- Follow up people’s courageous steps with a text message/phone call
10. SUMMARISE THE DISCUSSION
- This brings security to people
- This provides a sane and Biblical end to the discussion
- Set a challenge, give people a direction to aim at in obedience