One of your goals as a small group facilitator is to get everyone involved in your group as much as possible. On the weekend people go to church and passively listen, but during the week at their small group we want them to actively discuss what they are learning and how they are growing.
Steve Gladen, the Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Church has stated, “Every person in your group is an important part of the process [of discipleship]—not just the leader. The sooner your group members realize this, the healthier your group will be, and the easier your job will become” (Steve Gladen, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, p. 109). Get everyone as involved as possible in the organization of your group as well as during the discussion time.
Ideas to Involve Everyone in the Organization of Your Group
When you start out your small group it is easy to be the person that does everything. That is okay as you get your group started. But from that very first meeting you need to start getting other people involved in the organization and leadership of your group.
Here is a brief list of the different roles that you can implement in your small group.
- Facilitator – This is the person that facilitates the discussion each week and leads the group. This is most likely you.
- Apprentice/Co-Facilitator/Assistant – You should have a “right hand man” so to speak, someone that you can rely on and trust to help you when you need it.
- Prayer Coordinator – This is the person that oversees the prayer time of your small group, writes down the prayer requests, brings those prayer requests back to your group each week, and prays during prayer time.
- Snack Coordinator – Someone who is good with details and organization can assign a different person each week to bring snacks and remind people when it is their week to bring snacks to group.
- Host – It is a lot of work to prepare to facilitate a small group discussion and to clean your house for small group. So you might find someone else in your group that enjoys hosting people at his home and allow him to host the group.
- Service Projects – It is good to get your group out to serve at church or in the community a couple of times a year, but you shouldn’t be the person to coordinate it. Give someone else the opportunity to be the person in charge of it in your group.
- Communication on Lessons – It is a good idea to have someone communicate with the entire group each week on what lesson you are in, what Bible passages the people should read before arriving at group, and what questions they should work through before going to group. Similar to your snack coordinator, this person needs to be good with details and communication.
- Missions and Outreach – While you might have someone that coordinates your local service projects at church or in the community, you might have someone else that is passionate about missions and outreach. This person can stay in touch with our church missionaries, pray for them, and ask your group to also pray for those missionaries.
It is important to note that as you get more and more people involved in the leadership of your small group, you need to get better and better at communicating with the people helping you organize the group.
At the beginning of your group when you did everything, you didn’t have to communicate with others because you did all the work. As you get more people involved you will be doing less work, but you will need to communicate more about what is going on in your group so that your team can help you make the group happen.
Ideas to Involve Everyone in the Discussion at Your Group
In addition to involving everyone in the organization of your group, you also want to involve everyone in the discussion time of your small group. Here are three ways to get everyone involved in your discussion time.
Don’t Answer Your Own Questions
As tempting as it might be, you don’t want to answer your own questions. Make it your goal to get the group to talk! In fact, there might be times you ask a question out of your study guide, the group has a good discussion, and you never share your answer.
That’s a good thing!
And if you ask a question and the group is silent, let the group sit in that silence for a few moments as they ponder the question and their answers. But most of all, don’t answer your own questions in the group.
Pace Your Study and Make Sure You Give Time for Discussion
You are the facilitator and leader of your small group. Therefore, you are responsible for setting the pace of your group and making sure that the necessary elements of your group happen each week in a timely manner. There are three strategies that will help you pace your study and make sure that you have plenty of time for discussion.
- Have a schedule or a plan. Determine what order of elements works best for your group, and stick to it. For example, one group might decide to start with the Unifying Question, read the Bible passage for the week, work through the discussion questions, do prayer time, and then have time for fellowship and snacks. Determine how long each element should be, and then stick to it. One more thing, be assertive in sticking to your plan. Keep the group moving along. Don’t let the group members decide how long certain meeting elements should go on for. Instead, you should be the one setting the pace and keeping the group moving along.
- Start on time and don’t wait for people who are late. If your group is scheduled to start at 6:30pm and only three out of the nine people are there at 6:30pm, start anyway. (If you wait for the people that are late, then you communicate to the entire group that it’s okay to arrive late.) You want to reward those three people that showed up on time. You do not want to reward the people that are late by starting late. It is important to honor your people’s time by starting and ending on time.
- Keep the discussion moving and don’t spend too much time on one particular question. The natural tendency for every small group is for the people to go on “rabbit trails.” The passage you are reading in your group will mention a topic which reminds someone of something else, then before you know it you are talking about how to kill gophers in your yard! You will think, “How did we get here?” It is natural for every small group to slowly start to drift away from the discussion that the study guide gave the group. Your job as a facilitator is to kindly and gently bring the group back to the topic at hand and to keep the group moving through the questions. Some ways to do this are, “Well, I think we have covered this question thoroughly, so let’s move on,” or “That was a good discussion on that question. Let’s go on to the next question” or “We have talked about this question for a bit and I want to make sure we get to some other questions too. So let’s start the next question.” Be kind to others but also direct about how the group has spent a good amount of time on that question and needs to move on. Don’t let the group spend too much time on one particular question.
Encourage Everyone to Participate, but Don’t Force It.
Everyone should participate in your discussion. When people attend church on Sunday they passively sit and listen to a sermon. When they attend your small group during the week they need to actively participate in a discussion. There will always be people in your group that talk more than others. But, your goal is to get everyone involved in the discussion each week, even if they don’t talk an equal amount. Here are three ideas to get everyone to participate in the discussion.
- After a few people answer the question, ask if anyone else has something to share. Give the quiet and shy person a chance to share after others have had a chance to talk. Often the more talkative people are the first to speak up and share their thoughts on the questions you ask. But the quiet person might need that little extra time or opportunity to share. So before moving on from your question ask, “Does anyone else have something to share” or “Is there someone who has not already had a chance to talk that might like to talk?”
- If the quiet person looks confused or looks like he wants to share something, then ask him. If you see a person in your group that normally is quiet and shy looks confused, prompt him to share what he is thinking. Say, “(his name), do you have something you wanted to ask or say?” And give him a chance to share. Again, don’t force it, just leave the opportunity there for him to share if needed.
- When a quiet person does want to talk, honor that person and make time for him. If there is someone in your group that normally is quiet and does not share much, but he does decide to speak up, be sure to give him plenty of time to share. Don’t cut him off and don’t let others cut him off. For example, if the quiet person starts to talk and another more talkative person wants to share too, ignore the more talkative person and clearly look at and give your attention to the quiet person. Honor his courage to speak up by giving him your attention and the group’s attention as well.
Involve Everyone the Best You Can
To get everyone involved in your small group can be difficult and hard at times, but it is important because small groups are about people. Small groups are meant for people to actively be participating in the leadership and organization of the group as well as during the discussion time. Small groups are supposed to be that safe place for people to start to use their spiritual gifts as well as share what is going on in their lives. Do your best to get everyone involved.