Sometimes group leadership gets dumbed down. Maybe you've heard people say that all a leader needs to do is facilitate a discussion each week. That's not true. In fact, part of promoting participation is eventually giving away facilitation to other members of the group. The leader's main role is to create an environment—both physical and relational—where people have the opportunity to connect with one another and grow closer to God. But facilitating great discussions is important. You ought to know how to do it well before you hand it off to your apprentice or other members of your group. Great facilitation (as opposed to teaching) encourages all members of your group to talk about what they're learning and how they're growing.
Leaders who facilitate well have some common traits:
- They aren't afraid or offended by troubling or "out of left field" input by a group member.
- They're prepared for difficult questions and conversations, but limit they're own opinions and input in order to give the entire group space to speak.
- They understand that they should only be talking about 20 percent of the time (at most).
- They encourage others to share, listen attentively when others speak, and are affirming.
For most of us, those behaviors don't come naturally. We have to practice them in order to become better facilitators. The good news is, group provides a great environment and plenty of time to practice. Think about the areas where you need a little work. Maybe you're too quick to step in and answer when there's silence in the group. Maybe you're easily offended by things group members say. Or maybe you tend to sneak in a little teaching by asking questions that have clear right and wrong answers.
Knowing where you need improvement is the first step in honing your facilitation skills.
On Thursday, I'll dig a little more into the specifics of how to ask questions in a way that stimulates good and helpful conversation.