PURPOSE OF DISCUSSION GROUPS
- To help the participants to understand and digest the formation presented.
- To allow them to express their thoughts and feelings, and to give them a chance to ask questions.
- To help people to open up and respond to God’s invitation and grace.
- To provide a place for them to begin to experience Christian fellowship and preparing the way to participate in a Christian community.
THE ROLE OF A DISCUSSION GROUP LEADER
To help set the right tone.
a) Come promptly to each session at the time indicated by the team leader, so that the team meeting may be held as scheduled and there will be enough time for you to greet the participants as they come in, especially the members of your discussion group.
b) Be warm and friendly, even if people are a little stiff at first. New people will warm up as you are warm with them. Take special care to establish an atmosphere of love and interest in the group.
c) Be joyful and outgoing. Meet other men and women who are not in your group. Encourage your group members to get to know more people outside their own group.
d) Participate enthusiastically in whatever is going on. Sing the songs, listen attentively (even if the talk is familiar), and follow quickly any lead the team leader gives.
e) Pray out where there is an opportunity. Express your prayer in a way that teaches the new people how to pray, but does not overwhelm them (e.g., grant that we may be martyrs), and does not use unfamiliar jargon (e.g., Jesus, thank you for your all-sufficient and substitutionary sacrifice, that purchased my redemption).
To help evangelize those in your discussion group.
a) Remember the names and important details of your discussion group members. By this you communicate a great amount of concern.
b) Tailor the program inputs to your members’ needs during the discussion. You have freedom to lead discussions as you think best, with the goal of making the message of the talks connect with each one in a personal way.
c) Follow up regularly with your group members during the week. If necessary, meet with them for further discussion. Encourage them to be open, to persevere and to turn to the Lord to seek out His will for them. Contact those who miss talks and get together with them for make-up sessions.
d) Intercede for them and do spiritual warfare on their behalf. Fast and pray for them.
e) Do whatever is appropriate to bring to issue each one’s relationship with Christ. It is your responsibility to help them personally and to do all you can to bring them to commitment to Christ.
Important general comments:
a) The team members’ love for one another and for the participants is a crucial element.
b) Participating in the singing and fully in the prayers is crucial, because that is the way the participants will learn how to pray.
c) Faithfulness to all meetings is absolutely essential. Being punctual is presupposed.
d) Prepare for the sessions by studying the goals and content of the sessions beforehand. Pray and think about the discussion starters and guides. Know what your members should be taking home from the session and help them to appropriate that.
e) READ AND STUDY!
LEADING A DISCUSSION GROUP
- The discussion groups form and begin usually after the talk.
- When first meeting as a discussion group, try to establish a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t be overly serious, but maintain control. Inspire confidence in others that you know what everybody is supposed to be doing. Remember that many people have never been in this type of discussion group. Be clear about instructions like sitting in a circle, etc.
- Start and end every discussion with a short prayer. You may ask others in your group to lead the prayer if they seem ready, but don’t put them on the spot.
- Start with introductions and let everyone get to know one another.
- Assure them that the principle of confidentiality is at work in your discussions. Whatever is shared basically remains only within the group. Unless it is of a serious or life-threatening nature.
- Let the group know that they are free to ask relevant questions or bring up relevant problems.
- If the participants are still not very open or are still shy, you may have to begin the sharing yourself. This also is a good way of showing them how the discussion/ sharing is to be handled.
- If the group is eager to respond to the talk, allow them to, without bothering with the discussion starter.
- Encourage shy people who don’t speak much by asking them questions. Don’t put them on the spot, however. Start with easy general questions at first, then work your way up to more specific things about themselves. Make sure everyone gets to talk during the discussion. Don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to take too much time and dominate the discussion.
- One way to control dominant people in discussion groups is to speak to the person before the session begins. Encourage their sharing but impress them with the limited amount of time and the need for everyone to share.
- Don’t let the discussion get off the subject. Gently but authoritatively tell them that it is time to stop this line of conversation. Suggest another time or place to the people involved.
- It is usually best to open up the discussion to any questions only after you are sure they have understood the main points of the talks, or if they won’t share. Quite often questions asked do not have anything to do with the talk.
- When answering questions, you don’t need to offer everything on the subject, but only what will help the person most at this time in his/her life. On the other hand, be willing to say “I don’t know” and/or “I’ll find out”.
- Don’t take up serious theological issues in the discussions.
- Don’t talk down to people or appear to be an expert on something you are not.
- Avoid Christian jargon. There is a way in which new people cannot enter into the meanings of the phrases we know so well.
- Take notes and write down significant details of conversations in your group so that you can keep track of your people’s progress and also as a basis for the team meeting afterwards.
- As you listen to the talk, discern which points your people especially need to hear and try to bring those out in your sharing or in theirs.
19. Keep your eye on the time. Make sure that there is enough time for everyone to share.