9 Guiding Thoughts When Your Group Discussion Goes Off the Map

Truth we discover on our own is almost always better retained than truth which is told to us. This is not an argument against the effectiveness of a sermon (the Bible records numerous times in which the Holy Spirit worked powerfully through the preaching of a sermon), rather it is a reminder that we sometimes need to be focused on helping people discover God's truth by themselves. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is through asking questions.

Even if you are following a study guide that provides questions for you, sometimes it is helpful to go "off the map" in a quest to help people think more deeply through the topic. Here are some guidelines to help you as you use questions to enable growth:

1. Use questions to follow up people’s answers. (examples as follow)
  • “Can you give me an example or two about…?”
  • “What do you mean by that?”
  • “Why do you believe that?”
  • “What is the basis for your conclusions/feelings?”
  • “Would you explain again what you just said for us?”
  • “What are your feelings about that?”
2. Sometimes it’s beneficial to specifically redirect the conversation to someone else. (examples follow)
  • “Jane, what do you think about what Alex just said?”
  • “Let’s hear what Bob thinks.”
  • “John, you have some great input on this topic. I wonder if anyone else has something to add?”
3. Don’t be afraid of silence.
4. Don’t be afraid of robust disagreement.
5. Don’t be afraid of asking others to contribute.
6. Don’t be afraid to “manipulate” the conversation.
  • "Let me throw in my opinion here..."
  • "Let's take this in another direction..."
  • "Maybe we need to consider this from another angle..."
7. Don’t be afraid to let the conversation go “off course”.
8. Don’t be afraid to stop for prayer in the middle of a discussion.
9. Don’t be afraid to run out of time.

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