1 Remember it is a discussion not a lecture
The role of the discussion leader is to facilitate the conversation and help people interact, not to deliver a monologue. Sharing the leadership discussion role around group members is one practical way to help alleviate falling into the ‘lecturer’ trap. Another practical step you can take is to make a decisions as a group about what the expectations are of the discussion leader and include this in your group ground rules.
2 Expect preparation
If group members have done some preparation before the gathering, discussion will be more animated, robust and personal, because personal thought has been undertaken on the topic and questions for the session. If possible, have a spoken understanding in your group that members will take time to reflect on the readings, discussion topic and any questions set, before you meet.
3 Ask open ended questions
It is useful to create some follow up questions to compliment any set questions for your discussion time. Make sure these are open-ended questions which can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Practise writing these type of questions to get into the habit, or jot some of them down on your notes as you prepare. If you must ask a “yes or no” question, be sure to follow it with “Why?”
4 Model listening
It is so easy to jump in before people have finished their input, or to be thinking about the next thing you will say! Try to focus on the person talking, take in what they are saying but also watch their body language and listen for the ‘unspoken’ When we take time to really listen we may hear something beyond the verbal. Be sure to respond to a groan, deep sigh, or laughter, a lot can be communicated ‘non-verbally’ so respond where appropriate. “That was a big sigh Jack, do you want to add anything to the conversation?” Or “You are looking a bit confused Abby do we need to stop and clarify?
5 Embrace the silence
We may feel uncomfortable with silence, but it can mean those who need time to think before they speak have opportunity to share. Count to 20 in your head before you respond, you will be surprised how often someone will speak before you get there! I once heard this great tip – in the silence WAIT and ask yourself Why Am I Talking!
6 Be affirming
Groups members will contribute to the conversation if they are affirmed for their input. “Thank you for your comment, an interesting point, we appreciate your insight, thanks for being so open…….”
Don’t forget to apply what you’ve learned! Ask group members how they will live life differently because of your discussion. Or what they can identify as next steps in embracing what they have learnt. If personal application is shared, take time to pray for one another in the meeting time and during the week. Gently follow up next time you gather.