Part of our roles as small group leaders is to facilitate healthy discussions that lead to growth. Quality conversations will help a person’s spiritual and emotional health. When leading group, our main goal is to create discussion that allows to people process their lives through the lens of God’s Word. Here are a few practices and principles that can help us lead healthy discussions.
1. Preparation—Failing to plan is planning to fail.
The key to facilitating healthy discussions is being prepared. This means setting time to look over the weekly guide beforehand. Our discussion guides are sermon-based material from the previous weekend’s message. We can better prepare by taking notes during the sermon, and/or even watching/listening to it again as a refresher. (You may also want to encourage the group to do the same.)
Look over the guide and already have in mind what you plan to share with the group. Remember, your transparency sets the tone for the depth in conversation.
Have an idea where you want the discussion to go. Talk it over with your apprentice and assistant. Brainstorm additional open-ended questions you could ask for further discussion.
Be mindful of time, especially for seekers. Take a few minutes to warm up and start (5-8 minutes) and spend majority of the time on the sermon discussion. Group could last anywhere from 60-75 minutes.
2. Participation—Facilitate, don’t lecture.
In many cases, the person leading the group tends to do most of the talking. When this happens, group can seem like it is a lecture. A leader gets the conversation started and facilitates discussion by getting everyone to participate and share. This means asking good follow up questions and having others speak into specific topics. A leader is also aware of when the conversation is going off topic, and quickly brings it back into focus. Here are some quick transition statements when the discussion has gone off topic:
“It’s seems like we’re getting off topic. Let’s get back to the discussion guide.”
“Thanks for sharing. We can talk more in depth about that after group. In the meantime, does anyone else want to share?”
“I’d love to hear more about that when we’re done, but I want to make sure that we give time for others to share on this topic right now.”
While this may take some courage at first, it can become instinctive over time. Group members will grow in confidence knowing that discussions will be focused and that no person or issue can dominate and completely take over.
Speak the truth in love. Wisely use the scriptures from the guide and other verses to address issues and opinions that arise. Let the Bible speak for itself.
Consider clustering if more than 6 people. The smaller setting gives everyone a chance to share in a timely manner.
Be aware of body language and eye contact of members. Everyone should be focused on the person sharing. If someone isn’t paying attention, quickly involve them in the conversation.
Remove as many distractions as possible for focused conversations. (Phones, text messages, etc. can be taken after group unless an emergency.)
Value group members’ insights. You can affirm what someone has shared by saying “thanks for sharing that”, “that’s really good”, or “thank you for being honest.”
Make sure each person has an action step they will take after the discussion. Follow up with them for accountability.
3. Prayer—The power for change.
Lasting change doesn’t come by only processing, but through prayer. Prayer invites the power of God to move in a person’s life. Make sure to open the meeting in prayer and have time to close by praying for specific points and needs of members. There are general points included in the discussion guide that give direction for prayer.
Be mindful of the environment you’re in. In public places, pray with your eyes open.
Mix up prayer. One person can pray for the group, each person can pray for a point, or you can have people pair up and pray for each other.
Be sensitive to new people. Protect them from feeling like they have to pray out loud.
Always include praying for a lost person that God has placed on our heart.
Remember, the end goal of group discussion is life change, not perfect discussions or getting through all the material. Be open to the Holy Spirit during each group meeting and follow where He leads. God is the one who does the work in our hearts. As leaders, we are simply creating an environment for discipleship and change to occur.
What stood out to you from the teaching?
What are some things that you have done in group that helped with discussion?
What adjustments do you need to make to facilitate better discussions?
What are some current issues within group that you’ve had difficulty with?
Who are you empowering to facilitate discussions in the group?
Continue to pray for and follow-up with individuals that you brought to our weekend services. Let’s make sure we are consistently connecting and walking them towards discipleship.
Growth Track – Starting this month, Growth Track will be on Saturdays 6:00pm, Sunday 9:15am and 6:00pm at Main Campus, and Sunday 9:45am at Kaneohe. The Cityside cycle will resume in May.
Discipleship Track – Our next cycle start on Wednesday, May 2 and Thursday, May 3. Both classes will be held at Main Campus (ENLI 1) from 7:00pm-9:00pm.