At Worship Center our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus, helping them find their purpose in him. The discussion environments created by small group leaders are a primary place that can happen! Try practicing these ten tips to help make your group's conversation impactful.
1. Ask the right questions. The goal is a discussion – not a right answer. The discussion questions are designed to have multiple “right” application answers. Open questions ensure personal growth!
2. Don’t be afraid of silence – let people think. If they are too quick with the answers then maybe the question didn’t really need to be asked.
3. Follow the Leader (the Holy Spirit). Sometimes a discussion can take a turn and go somewhere else. It’s your job to decide if it’s a Spirit-led moment or if you need to get back on track. At times this can be a way of really getting to the core of what God is doing in someone’s life while at other times it can just be a comfortable topic, or a pet peeve, or soapbox, etc.
4. Watch for the quiet ones – they have a lot to give but may require encouragement on your part. You may need to be creative in getting everyone involved. It may be good to ask everyone to share something in kind of a go-around-the-room fashion, but maybe it would be good to ask someone directly what their thoughts are. For instance, “Bob, I’d love to hear what you are thinking…”
5. Help the wordy! Some people feel obligated to answer every question themselves, and they feel like everyone wants or needs to hear how they see things. One way to help them out is to direct a question to a certain person or area of the room before you even ask it, like “Okay for this next one I’d like to hear from Kathy or someone in that corner over there.” Or sometimes you can even directly thank the person for sharing and say you’d like to hear from others. “Tom, thanks for being so willing to start up the conversation. It’s great that you share so easily. This time I want to hear from someone who hasn’t shared at all yet.” Hopefully, this can be a gentle way of saying that others need to be able to talk too.
“So you see that people are made right with God by what they do, not by faith only.” James 2:24
6. Affirm the sharers without favoritism. Always thank people for sharing but be cautious of showing too much appreciation for any one person as this could put others off from sharing or make people who already shared feel like their sharing wasn’t up to par.
7. Expect change in people. When you view people as growing in the Lord and not stuck in their issues, then God can really use your empowering to help people see who they could be. Jesus was such a great model of this. So be cautious not to “freeze frame” people where they are at but believe them into who they could become. We as leaders need to keep this in front of us.
8. Be careful not to preach or teach. This is a small group for a reason, and the reason is for people to think and apply truths to their own lives in a comfortable and authentic setting.
9. Defer when necessary. Sometimes deep issues can come to the surface during a small group discussion. The small group is normally not the place for in-depth personal ministry by the group. So, when necessary you may need to assure someone that God has a plan and say something like, “I can see that God is really moving in your heart. Let’s talk about this later so we can make sure you are getting the support you need for God to help you work through this.”
10. Model vulnerability. If you share your “stuff,” people will be more willing to share their stuff.