8 Tips For Better Small Group Discussions

I borrowed this list from discipleship journal, but these are some helpful hints for leading discussion:

1. Wait out the silence. After you ask a question, don't rush to rephrase or answer it. Allow group members time to think.

2. Watch faces. If you see the wheels turning, invite members to think aloud: "Mike, did you have a thought you'd like to share?"

3. Ask follow-up questions. This draws the speaker out and helps everyone think about the subject more thoroughly. You might ask,
- "What do you mean by that?"
- "In what way?"
- "Why do you think that is?"

4. Know when to contribute. You don't need to do what your group members have already done. If a member has offered a gentle, appropriate correction to a wrong answer, it's not necessary to add to it. If the group has covered a question well and your answer is the same, go to the next question. However, if you have a different answer to offer, do so respectfully. "I thought of it from a different angle" and, "We really see this differently, don't we?" are good ways to introduce your idea.

5. Consult the group. When a member asks you a question, let the group add its input first. Someone else may have an excellent response. You can summarize with your answer afterward if it would help.

6. Monitor tangents. Decide if a tangent fits the purpose of the group. Allow those that are beneficial, but refocus a discussion that's gone too far off subject or degenerated into meaningless chatter. Sometimes a knowing smile and a "Getting back to question seven..." are sufficient. If your group wants to address a tangential issue in more detail, consider scheduling a separate meeting to examine it.

(David's Note: Sometime it is okay to abandon the planned discussion in favor of something which comes up as a tangent. As the leader, it is your responsibility to guide the group, not push and pull it. If your sense is that the group is significantly engaged, and truly sharing, on the tangent; it might not be wise to ruin that moment)

7. Affirm member's input without condescending. Don't over-comment. Correct their responses gently when necessary.

8. Encourage quieter members. Some members are more reluctant to share than others. Consider gentle invitations: "Jan, we'd love to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?"