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January 1, 2015

Keys to a Great Discussion (Part 1/2)

by Matt Ulrich

discussion Ever wonder how to facilitate a great discussion at your microchurch?  There are definitely strategies for keeping the teaching and discussion engaging, effective, and fruitful.  Here are a few tips to help you and your microchurch maximize the discussion time that you have each week!

We all want to be better leaders and communicators, and microchurch leaders are no different.  But before we jump in, let’s talk about some ground rules.  Remember, microchurch is NOT supposed to be a duplicate of the Weekend Service where a Pastor preaches and everyone else is listening to the message. Rather, it is to be led by you facilitating a group discussion where everyone is encouraged to talk and ask questions.  As leaders, we don’t even have to cover all of the material we’ve prepared or feel like we have to have all the right answers: what we want is engaging and transformative discussions.  In fact, as facilitators, our main goal is to create vital, life-giving discussions.

Here are some suggestions that can help us accomplish those goals.

Let Them Know What To Expect

Set your group up to engage. Tell them right from the start that you want everyone to feel comfortable to ask questions and join the discussion. Basically, you are there to facilitate the group by leading the discussion well. Most people like to know the guidelines and what is expected. Do this each time you meet so that new people feel comfortable to join in and it’s a good reminder to everyone why we are getting together.


Jump Start the Discussion

Begin with a Scripture, topic, or main point that takes you 5 to 10 minutes to explain.

Get the ball rolling BUT then pass the ball to your group. If you spend more than 15 minutes talking about the topic before you allow anyone to jump into the conversation, you are controlling the meeting, talking too much and not allowing solid group interaction. Often people will leave a group where they feel they can’t ever get a word in because the leader dominates the discussion.


Ask Good Questions

A good skill to acquire is how to ask good questions. Learn to ask open-ended questions!  Here are four quick ways to help you with that:

1. Avoid yes/no, true/false or anything someone can answer with one word answers.

2. Avoid asking questions that are so lofty that YOU are always answering.  Remember, the point to not to showcase your knowledge, but to get everyone engaged and learning.

3. Ask questions that require your group to share some actual feelings or experiences.  Go beyond just factual information.

4. Ask follow-up questions. The default setting for many people is to stay pretty surface level with their answers. Don’t let them off the hook; follow up with asking them to explain their response. Here are some suggestions:

  • “Why do you feel that way?”
  • “Why do you think the author was addressing that specifically?”
  • “How you would explain that to someone who doesn’t agree?”


Bring In Some Healthy, Constructive Conflict to the Discussion

Don’t you love a good debate?!  It would be so boring to have a group where everyone agrees and no one challenges the topic, author, or passage of Scripture. We want to wrestle with difficult passages, different ideas and issues, in order to create an environment where true discussion is possible. Different perspectives make us think about what we value and believe in. A good debate does not mean tempers are flaring, shouting back and forth, or heated arguments, but looking at both sides of an issue or perspective and having an active dialogue that makes us think.

Some suggestions to stir a good debate:

  • Do you really agree with the author on this?
  • Why did God design it that way, is that how it should work?
  • What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
  • Do we really have to do it like that?


Make Sure There is an Application

A big question people will always ask (or should) is how does this apply to my life?  Make sure there is a practical application to what you are teaching and discussing. By the end of the Microchurch, you want people thinking about how it applies to them. Otherwise, we all leave with a bit more knowledge, rather than willing to change our hearts for Christ.

Some Suggestions:

  • What is one thing you can do differently this week to live this out?
  • What do you now see differently about this issue that helps you understand and causes you to see God’s purpose?
  • What in the world does this have to do with your life now?


Follow these simple steps and you will be on your way to leading a healthy and vibrant discussion in your microchurch.  Next month, we will be talking about what to do with the members who make leading a good discussion so difficult and how to deal with them, so stay tuned!


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