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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, you can affirm a person's contribution. Some simple statements you can make are:
  • Thanks for sharing that...
  • I appreciate your input...
  • Good thoughts...
  • I can tell you've thought about this...
If you need to correct or redirect something, you can always follow your affirmation with an "and" or an "or". These are simple words which can transition into an opportunity for you to share a different opinion or Scripture's perspective.

One last thing to consider. It's important that everyone in the group share this value. All group members should work to affirm one another. Take the time to discuss with your group the difference between affirmation and agreement. Encourage them to agree as often as possible, but to always affirm one another.


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20 Questions to Build Group Connections

Here is a great exercise for a new group. The instructions are pretty simple. Go around the group giving each person the opportunity to choose one question and answer it honestly. Anyone can follow-up with an opinion or clarifying question (no critiquing each other's answers, though). Once a question has been answered, no one else may answer that question.

If your group is larger, you may want to alter the rule and allow each question to be answered 2 or 3 times. Ideally, each person should end up answering 3-5 questions.

As the leader, pay attention to the conversation. Let the discussion run its course as this is how people in the group build their relationships with one another. You can use these questions, modify them or create your own.