I was one of the few Christians in my fraternity at the University of Michigan. I hit on the idea of leading a Bible study as a way of sharing my faith with the guys in the house. I announced this would be a free and open discussion concerning God and life, kicked off each week by a passage from the Bible. Privately, I was committed to using the time as a way of convincing them to believe the gospel. I was excited so many had shown up, and vowed to not waste the time with idle chatter. From that point on, it was all downhill.
Let me focus on how to avoid the pitfalls that doom the average religious discussion, as well as ways to generate lively participation.
You Wonder Why I Called This Meeting?
Before a leader calls people together, he or she needs to honestly face the question, "Do I really want a discussion?" The answer is not an automatic yes. Many times we try to use a discussion format because it's the "in" thing in group techniques. Our members want it, or our superior expects it, but in our heart of hearts, we're uncomfortable with the loss of control.
In my Bible study, I had a "hidden agenda." My actual purpose wasn't to have an interchange of ideas; it was to convince them to become Christians. They weren't dumb, and easily spotted my ulterior motive and became defensive. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for evangelism. But a discussion group is a poor place to persuade because of behaviors that contribute to a defensive climate. Actions that show evaluation, control, strategy, superiority, and certainty all have a cooling effect on spontaneity.
Once I get it clearly in mind that I'm not trying to persuade, then I'm ready to plan a discussion. ...