The Basics of Facilitating

The Basics of Facilitating

What every small-group leader needs to know

One of your key roles as a small-group leader is facilitating discussion at your meetings. For some, this opportunity is exciting and thrilling. For others, the task feels daunting. First of all, know that you will improve with time—this is something any veteran leader will tell you. Second, there are several tips that will help you improve as a facilitator, including types of questions to use and keys to keep the discussion moving.

Types of Questions

The goal of the facilitator is to help group members engage in meaningful dialogue with one another. This allows them to discover biblical truths for themselves. In fact, a mentor once told me that my goal as a small-group leader was to never tell when I could ask. In other words, instead of telling the group that Galatians was written by Paul to the church in Galatia, I should ask the group, "Who is the author of Galatians? And who was it written to?" This gets everyone involved, and sets the tone for discussion instead of lecture.

Use a variety of questions to spark discussion and help group members connect with the topic. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to follow the order of these questions when leading discussion. They work from more general to very specific and help group members discover God's truth. In this order, you'll finish your discussion by actually applying it to your lives. A common mistake of small-group leaders is jumping to application questions before using the other types of questions to dig into the text. Instead, use the following types of questions in this order and end your meetings at a climactic point in discussion.

Launching Questions

These questions are intended to get discussion started, focusing the group members' attention on a certain topic. They should be open-ended and engaging. The best icebreaker questions fall into this category: they allow all group members to share from personal experience, and they connect their answers to the topic being discussed.

Examples:
What role did the Bible have in your childhood home?
When have you experienced forgiveness? What was it like?

Observation Questions

These are the only true closed questions you'll use. They seek to clarify what the text says. They ask group members simply to look to the text for the answer. These don't often generate a lot of discussion, so some leaders will want to skip over them. Realize, though, that these questions allow group members and guests alike to answer—because the answer is right in the text. Plus, they challenge us to look more closely at the content and remind us of the details of a passage, especially if we have read the passage before.

Examples:
In these verses, what does Paul say is necessary for salvation?
What Old Testament characters are mentioned in this passage from Hebrews?

Interpretation Questions

These questions ask "How?", "Why?", or "What do you think?" Theyrequire group members to consider the meaning of the text, using their own experiences and perspectives. These are often mixed up with application questions (which I'll cover later). The key difference is that interpretation questions simply seek to make meaning of the text, not to apply the text to our lives.

Examples:
Why do you think Jesus said that to Peter?
What does it mean to "bear with one another"?

Reflection Questions

These questions seek to make the transition between our understanding of what the text says and its implications for our lives—they transition from interpretation questions to application questions. They seek to put our lives into the context of the biblical account and discover how we should feel, think, and act within that context. They ask the question, "What does this have to do with us?" or "Why was this included in the Bible?"

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