The ABC’s of Facilitating Discussion

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Cor 14:26)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:15-16)

House churches are founded on the concept of the priesthood of all believers, the headship of Jesus in gatherings, and utilizing the gifts the Spirit has given to each participant. This transition is a blessing for those used to leadership in mainstream churches where a handful of people are tasked with keeping hundreds of people engaged for an hour…not an easy task.

However, for those used to monologues, leading discussions can be mystifying. Here are some ideas on how to lead a discussion effectively, the “ABC’s” of facilitating discussion.

  • Ask good questions: Ask open ended questions, rather than yes and no questions. For example, if you are talking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, a poor question would be “Did the Samaritan show love to the man who had been robbed?” All people can do is mumble yes or no. Instead, ask a question like “How do you think this act of love impacted the man who had been robbed?” That is a rich, open ended question that helps people place themselves in the shoes of the characters of the story.
  • Be patient: This is the most important step of the three. It seems that somehow we decided as a culture that silence is bad. From cover to cover, silence is revered in the Bible. We are consistently admonished to meditate on the Lord and his word. When you ask a question, wait AT LEAST 15 seconds before issuing a follow up comment or additional question (time yourself if you need to!). Statistically almost half of your church is introverted, meaning they need time to consider the question internally before speaking. If you rush into another question or cut off times of discussion at the first sign of silence, you can ensure certain people in your group will almost never share.
  • Cultivate interaction: draw people out in your group without embarrassing anyone. Simple questions like, “How about hearing from someone who hasn’t shared yet?” ensures that outspoken people (like me) do not dominate the discussion. Have someone who is tending to dominate times of sharing? Pray that God will place it on their heart to join you in drawing out each individual in your church. Then you might consider approaching them: “I want to thank you for always being ready to share your heart. It blesses me that you are always ready with thoughts to share in our times of discussion. I’ve noticed that a couple people aren’t sharing as much. I was wondering if you could help me by sometimes waiting to answer until a couple others have shared. I want to make sure we are drawing everyone in our church out.” Then maybe pray with them for each of the individuals in the church, model for them what it means to be a shepherd.

What are your ideas? What have you learned? Leave a comment for us all to benefit from your experience.