Keys to a Great Small Group Discussion
Pray for the Group. This is the first, best thing. Serve in God’s power!
Clear and courteous. It’s okay to disagree, but not misunderstand. Understanding is the basis of good communication. Questions can help clarify what someone said. Courtesy, charity, and love will help people feel accepted and encourage questions if they don’t understand.
Discovery is learning. People learn best when they arrive at an answer rather than being told one. In a group setting, people discover an answer by batting around a question and considering different viewpoints. This can only happen if people are talking. An ice-breaker or social time before the discussion can help.
Listen and wait. Really listen to what people say. Don’t get wrapped up in what you’re going to say next. Silence is golden so be comfortable with a pause. Give people a chance to think before they answer. Don’t feel you have to fill the empty space. Let the group do that.
Avoid spotlights and data pulls. Throw questions to the group, not an individual. This avoids putting someone on the spot. Also, try to avoid fact-finding questions unless really needed. Ask ‘how’ and ‘why’, but be careful with ‘what’. ‘What’ is okay for opinion questions (“What do you all think about that?”), but ‘what’ is often the start of a data pull. For example, consider asking “Would someone share how the fruits of the Spirits affect our lives?”, rather than “Bill (spotlight), what are the fruits of the Spirit (data pull)?”
Facilitate, don’t lecture. Sermons are for Sunday mornings. Instead, get the discussion ball in play and try to keep it there. Try to get group members talking to each other, not just you. Bounce the ball by asking ‘What does anyone else think?’, ‘Has someone had a similar experience?’, or ‘Would anyone like to share more?’
Reel it in. Discussions will wander and at some point you’ll need to reel it in. You can do this by rephrasing the original question, or repeating what someone else said in the form of a question (“So I think I heard that small groups are a key to discipleship. What else do small groups do?”).
Dive deep. If someone gives a short answer and you suspect they have more to say, dive below the surface by asking a follow-up. Ask ‘That’s interesting. Can you share more about that?’. This differs from spotlighting, in that the person has offered an answer. But if possible avoid why followups: ‘Why do you think that?’ Why/why-not puts a person on the defensive for their idea.
Be affirming. Applaud a great answer. Even if an answer isn’t helpful, you can affirm the person by saying, ‘Thanks for sharing’ or ‘I appreciate you jumping in’.
Correct the Soft Way. Some questions will ask for spiritual truth, not just opinion. If a reply is out of step with the Bible, rather than correcting the person, you can ask what others think. Usually, the group will arrive at the right answer. If not, it’s easier to correct a group idea than a personal one. You can always bring the truth centerstage by asking, ‘What does the text say about that?’
1 Ideas from “How to Ask Great Questions” by Karen Lee-Thorp, NavPress, 1998. Please see this great resource for more
Weekly Discussion Sheets
Click the links below to view and download (pdf files)
Week 1 > | James 1:1-8
Week 2 > | James 1:9-11
The small group discussion sheets are organized in a question and answer format. Generally, questions and instructions for the group are in bold text while suggested answers are in plain text.
The discussion sheets are here to serve you, not the other way around. Feel free to substitute your own ice breakers or adjust the sequence to suit your group. Do your best to wrap up on time even if you can’t cover everything. Most of all, have fun! Your enthusiasm and joy will be contagious!
The coming week's discussion sheet should be posted by Saturday. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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