Under the guidance of a skillful leader, small group discussions can be effective. Carefully guided discussions can change hearts, minds, habits, and attitudes. Here some of the things you need to “Be” to lead a small group discussion:
Be The Leader
Whatever your topic of discussion, make sure you have a goal in mind for the discussion. Have a clear idea of what you expect to accomplish. As the leader, it is your job to set the goal. Without a stated goal, the discussion becomes aimless and ultimately boring.
Make sure that goal is clear, practical, and measurable. When it is clear, people will be able to visualize the outcome. When it is practical, it is something useful and desirable for the members of your group. They will want to move in the direction of that goal. A measurable goal provides a clear way of knowing that you have attained it. For a small Group meeting, you’ll have to make the goal simple and small enough to be attainable in a short 15 minute discussion. For example, you can’t make your goal something broad like “Spiritual Growth” as it is just too vast and not measurable for a short discussion.
Be The Guide
With the goal in mind, constantly be in a guiding mode. You don’t need to control every aspect of the discussion. Be careful not to dominate and overpower the group members to force them toward the goal. Gradually guide the conversations in a meaningful way that will lead to the goal.
In other words, just make sure the discussion is moving in the right direction. As long as the direction is right, you will get there. Whenever the interactions seem to move away in a different direction, patiently redirect them back toward your goal.
Be The Facilitator
Along with being the leader and the guide, you are to facilitate every aspect of the discussion. Take all the preliminary and ongoing steps to make sure you will have a meaningful discussion.
Minimize distractions by paying attention to the various aspects of the room and group dynamics. Be sure to have something for small children to keep them occupied and comfortable. Ensure sufficient lighting for the group members to connect with each other. Try to arrange the seats in a circle so everyone is at least “visually” part of the discussion.
During the discussion, encourage the silent and timid ones to participate. Then, skillfully handle the talkers who seem to dominate every discussion. You don’t want to silence them, but skillfully leverage their boldness to keep the discussion moving, while including the quiet ones.
Facilitate the balance between the theoretical and practical. Bring in a sufficient amount of Biblical and other theoretical material, but make sure to keep it focused on the practical benefits of knowing the theory. Make sure it does not become a Bible study for the sake of a Bible study. Make the practical aspect the main aim of your discussion.
Be The Learner
Never present yourself as the expert. We are all on the same path as learners. By not presenting yourself as an expert, you allow for more participation from the group. But in the presence of an “expert,” the people simply become spectators.
Of course, you may be more knowledgeable and experienced than many of the people in your group, but that must be secondary. Your primary task is to be a co-learner who wants to benefit from the discussions as much as anyone else. This allows for the most productivity from your discussions.
If you currently lead a small group, I commend you for the awesome responsibility you take in God’s Kingdom. Be on a quest to do your task better every time. May the fruits of your work show up as changed lives.
For more on this topic, read one of my previous posts, Seven Things I’ve Learned About Leading Discussions.