Wednesday, May 13, 2015

3 Simple Tricks To Help You Write Better Discussion Questions

Discussions can be the primary method by which people grow in small groups. Learning to lead good discussions takes time and practice. Use the following thoughts to work on your abilities leading discussion.

View the 10 Commandments for Leading Discussions here.

Prepare “good” questions prior to the meeting
Have you ever been part of a discussion that went absolutely no where? One of the most important tasks a small group leader needs to execute is GOOD PREPARATION. If your group is going to engage in a good discussion, that will ONLY HAPPEN if you are willing to take the time beforehand to prepare good questions.

You can follow these steps to prepare good questions ahead of time:


1) Plan.
Set aside ample time for preparation. This time will include prayer, study, contemplation, and writing so 15 minutes before your group meeting is probably not enough. You need to set a time, block it off on your calendar, and honor that commitment to yourself.

2) Pray.
There really isn’t any reason to do anything if you aren’t relying on God to make it successful; so if you really want to give your discussion the best shot, pray.

3) Prepare.
You’ve set aside time and you’ve prayed it up, so now you are ready to prepare. I would recommend the following order of events for your prep time (although everyone will do it a little different).
  • Study. Whether you’re studying a biblical passage, reading a book, following a guide, or watching a video; take the time to make yourself familiar with the material. You should know it better than anyone else.
  • Contemplate. Think about where the people in your group are at in their lives. What are they struggling with? What are they celebrating? How is their family? their job? Is anyone in crisis? Consider how the material you are looking at is relevant to their lives.
  • Write. Don’t just develop a bunch of questions which serve only to increase your member’s knowledge about the material. Craft a discussion experience which will lead your group on a journey to impact their hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
Some of the other “Discussion Suggestions” will help you as you create these questions, but as a starter, here are some simple suggestions for putting questions together:
  • Ask open ended questions. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” will kill the conversation quickly.
  • “How” and “why” questions typically promote good discussion.
  • “When have you…” and “How do you feel about…” are usually a solid way to start a question.
  • More questions are better than fewer, as you can always delete them based on the course of the conversation.

Ultimately, experience is the best teacher. The more questions you write, the better you’ll get. Read other people’s questions, and ask yourself why they are (or are not) effective. If you can handle constructive criticism, ask a couple members of your small group to give you feedback on your questions. Most importantly, keep working at it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

10 Commandments for Leading Healthy Discussions

Small groups are a critical part of discipleship ministry. They give believers the opportunity to develop healthy relationships and grow in community. The best small groups utilize discussions to enable growth in each person. Below are 10 steps which will help you lead effective discussions. In the coming days, I'll write more about each of the steps:

1. Prepare “good” questions prior to the meeting

2. Create a climate of acceptance

3. Actively listen to each person

4. Affirm all legitimate expressions of opinion from your group members

5. “Peel the Onion” with questions

6. Be careful about taking sides in a “debate”

7. Allow for humor and rabbit trails

8. Don’t be afraid of silence.

9. Deal with discussion killers.

10. Be a facilitator, not an expert.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Grow Your Group With These 3 Principles of Healthy Communication


James wrote, "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

How would your communication with others change (improve) if you allowed this piece of wisdom to drive your conversations?

I've heard it said that God designed us to communicate well by giving us two ears and one mouth. Therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak. While this may not be a theologically accurate statement, the idea of listening more than speaking carries much value.

Communication is about more than just speaking and listening though. Effective communication is about UNDERSTANDING. Listening alone is very rarely enough to gain understanding and speaking alone is rarely enough to create understanding. A third piece is not just helpful, it's necessary. Effective communication also requires asking.



LISTEN: Understanding begins with listening. It's not enough to simply "hear" what someone else is saying, I need to fully give myself to listening, not just with my ears but with my eyes and my heart and my head. Often I need to dig beneath the initial words I hear to get to the heart of what someone else is trying to say.

Watching their expressions and gestures.

Leaning in.

Noticing their breathing.

Recognizing key words or repeated words.

Establishing eye contact.

These are all critical elements of true listening and they are all tools I can use to gain understanding.

ASK: Too often, communication fails when one person listens once and assumes they've gained complete understanding. Even though you may have heard every word, and observed every piece of non-verbal communication; you still may not be interpreting another person's ideas accurately. Once you've listened, BEFORE YOU RESPOND, ask a question.

Your question may be a simple restatement of what you think you've heard.

Your question might seek clarification about something you've heard.

You might point back to a key word or expression and ask for more input about that.

Whatever question you ask, your goal should be to gain understanding. Before you ever respond to someone else, make sure you know exactly to what you are responding.

I think this is probably what James was talking about when he warned people to be SLOW TO ANGER. Poor communication often leads to anger because someone reacts before they understand. They may have misread a statement or they may be unfairly imputing a feeling or emotion onto someone else. In any of these cases a few simple questions may avoid misunderstanding and will likely steer the conversation clear of anger and hurt feelings.

OFFER: Your words are a gift. Wrap them appropriately. Spouting off the first thing that comes into your mind is almost never a good idea and almost always leads to regret and more problems.

Reuben Feffer's father only speaks one line in the entire movie, Along Came Polly. But his one line provides the life-changing advice desperately needed by Reuben's friend Sandy Lyle. Few words are almost always more helpful than many.

Proverbs 10:19 says, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut."

Communication requires us to speak, however it doesn't require us to speak much. Effective speech is:
  • true
  • precise
  • humble
  • kind
  • straightforward

Ineffective speech is:
  • vague
  • accusatory
  • critical
  • loud
  • misleading
Good communication takes effort and time. It doesn't happen overnight. Usually, it takes (at least) two to tango. But even if those around you aren't committed to effective communication, you can still begin taking the steps to be a VENN COMMUNICATOR.

Listen fully.

Ask repeatedly.

Offer your words when necessary.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Point One Another To The Bible As Your Source for Solving Problems


This is a small group exercise designed for brave and self-directed groups who easily engage one another in meaningful discussion. Whether you do this in a group meeting, or around a table at Starbucks, this is a chance to interact with one another about real life stuff, using the Bible as your foundation for wisdom.

To get the full value from this exercise, you must be committed to Scripture rather than your own wisdom!


Before you begin, take a moment and have each person say one encouraging thing to the person sitting to their left.

Read James 1:19 in unison. Remind the group that the three virtues identified in this verse are central to every group's growth.

Have one person read James 1:22-25. Tell the group you'll be doing an exercise which will give them all the opportunity to be a DOER instead of just a HEARER.

Take turns. Let one person share a personal struggle they are currently having. As a group, ask questions and listen closely so you can gain a full understanding of their struggle.

One at a time, let other group members share specific truth from the Bible (no opinions here, just Biblical insight) that may be applicable to the struggle. People may share promises from the Psalms, advice from Proverbs, stories that seem to be similar, words of Christ, thoughts from the epistles, etc...

Once several people have shared God's Word, move on to another person.

At the end of your time together, have everyone who participated tell the group ONE thing they are going to DO as a result of HEARING God's Word.

Pray together. Find time during the week to encourage one another.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BUILDING A GROUP THAT LASTS: Focus your small group by making your time together a BLUR


FOCUS YOUR SMALL GROUP BY MAKING YOUR TIME TOGETHER A BLUR


Break Bread
Whether you enjoy an entire meal together or simply have popcorn and drinks, sharing food is a great way to break down barriers and promote openness. Relationships grow exponentially quicker when food is involved.

Learn About Each Other
Before you dive into Bible study or watching a video, take a few minutes to learn one another’s stories. Answering one or two questions each week leads to great discussion and can often become a powerful bonding time that everyone looks forward. Use crowd-breaker questions, or steal cards from a game like Zobmondo or Would You Rather.

Unpack God’s Word
You might watch a video, read a book together, or work your way through a section of the Bible. Whatever you are doing to promote spiritual growth, do it in a way that empowers every group member to participate and own the process. Open-ended discussion questions are usually the best way to get people egaged in the conversation.

Reach Out To Others

God did not save us into a clique. Churches and small groups should not be like luxury cruises where we just enjoy relaxing and being served. Your group should be a rescue boat, trying to save as many as possible from drowning. Ideally, everyone in the group should have friends and neighbors who need Christ and feel comfortable connecting with your group. At the very least, you should be reaching out to others in the church who have yet to be connected.