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Showing posts from July, 2008

10 Commandments of Leading Discussions

Allow Time For Humor And Rabbit Trails

When I was a youth pastor, the students used to call me the king of rabbit trails. They knew that whenever I taught, there was a chance I would end up "off-topic" following some rabbit trail that had come up. I would just say to them, "remember, every trail leads somewhere."

One of the greatest fears many small group leaders have is that their group will regularly be derailed by "rabbit trails" and they'll never accomplish their goals. While leaders should be careful to not get needlessly sidetracked too often, I'd like to suggest that some value can be found in rabbit trails. Rabbit trails can be a great way for a group to develop its own identity, as well as for group members to vocalize what is really happening in their life in that moment. One of the surest signs your group is engaged in healthy rabbit trails, is emotion, loud and raucous humor or sometimes painful and intense tears.

In fact, I'm go…

10 Commandments for Discussion Leading: #6

Be careful not to "take sides" in a debate.

From time to time in your group discussions, you will happen upon a controversial topic which launches your group into a debate. Particularly, I'm thinking of the type of "disputable" issues like those addressed by Paul in Romans 14.

As your group discusses the issues, you will very likely have an opinion; but it is important that you wait for the right time and use the right methods to share your thoughts. As a group leader, there is always the potential that some in the group may be hesitant to voice their opinion if they feel it is contrary to your position. Your first responsibility is to nurture an environment which allows everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Often our greatest growth comes when we are confronted with opposing viewpoints. We are then given the chance to reconsider the validity of our opinions and either make a change or gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for our position. …

10 Suggestions for Leading Discussions: Number Five

Peel the Onion with Questions.

Have you ever peeled an onion? You probably cried while you did. The point of this suggestion is NOT to make your group members cry with the questions you ask.

As you peel each layer of an onion, you discover that another layer can be peeled off until you get to the very heart of the onion. People are like onions. Typically, when asked a personal questions, the first answer they give will not fully reflect their heart. Likely, it will be an answer that barely scratches the surface of who they are. That answer needs to be peeled by asking another question.

Asking follow-up questions is a learned skill. The more you practice, the better you will become at peeling people's onions. Begin by committing yourself to the habit of always asking at least one follow-up question. If you have no idea what to ask, you can always restate the person's answer in your own words and ask them if that is what they are saying. More often than not, a person will…

Discussion Suggestions: Affirming Opinions

Affirm all expressions of opinion from each group member.
A subtle different exists between agreeing with every opinion and affirming every opinion.

Agreeing with someone's opinion means you are confirming that they are right in their assertion. While you will often have opportunities to agree with members of your group, you should not always agree. Group members will certainly occasionally make suggestions or verbalize opinions which are out of line with Scripture. On those occasions, you will do great harm to the person as well as the other group members if you agree. It's always okay to disagree.

Affirming someone's opinion simply means you are communicating your gratitude for their willingness to share. Regardless of whether or not an opinion is "right", the person sharing it has chosen to be somewhat vulnerable. Affirming their choice to participate is crucial to keeping a discussion rolling and cultivating a welcoming atmosphere.

Even if you disagree, yo…

LAUNCH groups @ Calvary

More discussion suggestions tomorrow, but for today here is something we're planning to do this fall. If you're involved with LIFEgroups at all at Calvary, I'd love to get your feedback/critique/ideas about this. Thanks.

Beginning September 14
making the next step a little easier

What is a LAUNCH group?
A LAUNCH group is a special six-week LIFEgroup designed to help people get a small taste of biblical community. LAUNCH groups meet six times to discuss a predetermined topic, often based around a video teaching. Each LAUNCH group will complete their six weeks with a "Service Party". Following their initial six weeks, each LAUNCH group has the opportunity to continue meeting together if they choose. A LAUNCH group may or may not become a long-term LIFEgroup.

Why LAUNCH groups?
LAUNCH groups are designed to enable people to more easily take the next step in the spiritual journey. Because we want to help people connect to God and others, our des…

10 Discussion Commandments: Actively Listen to Each Person

Read all ten commandments suggestions here.

I remember a story we used to read when I was a child that highlighted the difference between listening and hearing. A child regularly heard her parents instructions, but didn't really listen. As a result, she continually disobeyed, and ended being confronted about her poor listening habits.

In a LIFEgroup setting, it is easy to hear what everyone is saying, but to not really listen. Nothing can kill a discussion faster than not really listening to what others are saying, and nothing will promote discussion more than people's realization that they are really being listened to.

You have probably many times found yourself in a conversation in which you were nodding your head and maintaining eye contact the whole time your counter-part spoke, but really all you heard was, "blah, blah, blah." The problem is: when it is your turn to speak, you'll likely fumble and bumble trying to make sense, because you really have no idea…