Expert Advice for Small-Group Facilitators

Why obedience and a caring heart are all you really need
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So there are all kinds of fears that can creep up and try to paralyze us.

How can facilitators get over those fears?

One simply way is to remember your own personal God stories. If you've ever read through the Old Testament, you can think: How silly these Israelites are! God parted the sea. He gave them water from a rock. When they were hungry, they got manna. When they got tired of that, he gave them quail. How many signs do they need?

But I quickly find out that I'm just like the Israelites. I forget. And so I take the time to write down God moments. I have about 10 to 15 stories where God just supernaturally showed up in my life. I remember those when I face fear and they stand firm against it, to give me faith. So whenever you're fearful, just remember that the same God who took you through those experiences will take you through this one.

You also need people in your life. When you surround yourself in community, the people in your life bolster you against fear by supporting you and building you up. They form a protective wall around you that can help you take those steps that seem tricky now.

Other challenges for facilitators?

Another challenge we often don't think through enough is our curriculum diet. When you're raising kids, you don't ask them what they want to eat; you give them what they need to eat. In the same way, your group needs a healthy curriculum diet. At Saddleback, for example, we have a four-year curriculum plan to ensure that groups get a healthy diet.

Dealing with gossip in the group is another challenge. If you can understand Matthew 18:15–17, a lot of the battles of communication and conflict and gossip can be overcome before they grow. Facilitators need to be able to tell people who are gossiping about others in the group, "Did you talk to the person?" They need to understand that it's their job to stop gossip and conflict, biblically.

But on that subject of conflict, it can also be a challenge to see conflict as good, not bad. A lot of new facilitators experience conflict and say, "Oh, this is bad. We've got to jettison the group." But in reality, conflict is like a warning indicator in your car that flashes "check engine" or "low oil." Conflict just means the group is deficient in something. More times than not, it's communication. A huge bonding moment for groups is successfully working through conflict. As they go through it, they grow through it. The experience makes the group so much stronger.

From your experience, what are some good ways to deal with difficult people in a group discussion? I'm specifically thinking of people who talk too much, or don't talk at all.

Those are both very common, obviously. The first thing you need to remember when looking at your group is that all kinds of bugs are attracted to the light. So when you have the light of Christ, you're going to encounter every one of them.

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