promote participation

5 Tips for Asking Great Questions

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Asking great questions is as much an art as it is a skill. But developing that question-asking muscle is essential for great leadership. Asking great questions is the most effective thing a leader can do to create conversational environments where people can experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth. Jesus did this better than anyone in history. In the Gospels, he's asked a ton of questions — everything from "Are you the Son of God?" to "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" He rarely responds with an answer. Instead, he tends to ask questions that lead people to consider the truth, think about their own experiences, and reflect. Jesus understood that asking great questions helps people to process what they're thinking and feeling and to really own the answers they discover. Providing quick, simple answers doesn't usually do that.

When it comes to asking great questions, Jesus sets the bar high. You probably won't be as quick or insightful as he was (I'm not, that's for sure). But it's still a great idea to work on your question-asking skills, and to look to Christ for inspiration. You won't change overnight, but in time you'll find that your ability to ask better questions will create a better environment for your group members to grow.

Here are five simple, self-explanatory tips for asking great questions in group:

  1. Ask open-ended questions, not those that can be answered with a yes or no.
  2. Ask questions that evoke feelings, make people think, and lead to insights.
  3. Ask questions that have more than one right answer.
  4. Ask questions that encourage group members to share personal examples.
  5. Ask questions that stimulate group members to apply what they're learning.

Responding to questions by asking good follow-up questions engages everyone in the group. As you guide the conversation, make sure responses connect your questions to the topic you're discussing, pave the way for you and your group members to talk about your personal struggles, and encourage self-discovery by allowing people to arrive at their own conclusions with the help of the group discussion.

Why Having an Apprentice Matters

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[We recently had a series of posts about apprenticing, but I thought it might be interesting to hear from a Community Group leader on the subject. Kelli Spivey leads a women's group out of Buckhead Church. Here's what she has to say about the importance of developing future leaders.]

There are a million good things we do with our time. We lead our weekly group meetings, meet with group members outside of group, and are involved in the personal communities where we find support and encouragement. All of these things are essential, but we also need to make time for apprenticing. It's worth the investment.

As Community Group leaders, we have the opportunity to invest in people and lead them deeper in their walks with Jesus. For some members of our groups, that kind of investment means inviting them into apprenticeship. The goal is for your apprentice to lead a Community Group once your current group ends. This allows for group multiplication rather than just addition. Without an apprentice, you add to your influence as a leader year after year. With an apprentice you multiply your influence as your investment continues not only through your Community Group members, but the people your apprentice invests in.

It's tempting to neglect the opportunity to apprentice because we’re not sure where to begin and we lack the time. The process begins when we model what a small group leader is and does and when we give group members opportunities to lead. This small step allows your apprentice to practice some of the skills that he or she has seen you model for many weeks. With your support and feedback, your apprentice will continue to grow as a leader.

Many people just need someone to believe they have what it takes to be a leader and someone to invest time in them. So, look within your small group and ask God if there is someone with leadership potential. Communicate that you believe in that person. Let your apprentice lead. Have conversations about leadership. Begin the journey of apprenticing.

Take the challenge! If you invest in an apprentice, you will multiply your impact and legacy in leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Praying In Group

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In Monday's post, we talked about the importance of sharing tasks in your group in order to promote participation. Leading prayer time is one of the most important tasks you can share, but it's also one of the most delicate. Some group members may be comfortable taking the lead. Others may not even be comfortable praying out loud.

So, how do you encourage group members to lead prayer time without pushing them too far out of their comfort zones?

This answer may seem obvious, but I'll throw it out there anyway: Ask.

Sounds simple, right? But asking doesn't necessarily mean waiting until prayer time rolls around and then inquiring whether anyone in the group wants to take the reins. You can do it that way, but it probably won't yield the best results . . . especially in the early stages when group members are still getting to know one another.

If your goal is to promote participation, asking for volunteers isn't the best approach. Instead, think about those in your group who might be willing and able to lead prayer time. A few days before the group meeting, reach out to one of them with an email or a phone call to ask if he or she would lead. The one-on-one contact conveys your respect. It's a direct invitation for that person to engage at a deeper level in the life of the group. Having the conversation ahead of time also allows you to answer questions and provide coaching if necessary.

On the night of your group meeting, you'll be able to make a smooth transition into prayer time, led by your group member. This will set the stage for you to be able to reach out privately to other group members in order to share responsibility for prayer time and other tasks. It's a strategic approach that will help you to cast vision for a group experience in which all of the members share responsibility for building community.

What approaches have you taken to encourage your group members to step up and lead during prayer time?

Maintaining Momentum in the Summertime

Summer has a way of being both hectic and a refreshing change of pace. Any change in the rhythms of life can have a ripple effect on the momentum of your group. We asked four Groups Directors to share some best practices for maintaining momentum in the summertime. Each answer is less than 30 seconds long and offers a valuable insight you can use this week. The first is from Matt Driggers:

The next is from Philip Duffie:

This is what Adam Johnson had to say:

What do you do to maintain small group momentum in the summertime?