By Clay Morgan, United Methodist Communications
Since the first followers of Jesus began meeting in houses, small groups of people who meet regularly have reinforced relationships and strengthened the church.
Stepping up as a small-group facilitator is a great way to develop leadership skills, but it can also be intimidating. The good news is that effective facilitators don’t have to know everything.
In the past, we’ve written about free tools to help manage small groups. Here now are five fundamentals of facilitation for anyone who wants to improve as a small-group leader or coach.“Tell the audience what you're going to say; say it; then tell them what you've said.” — Dale Carnegie TWEET THIS
You can’t relax when you procrastinate. Prepare early so you can lead with confidence and focus on the people instead of the plan.
Here’s a checklist to review as you prepare your session:
Grabbing someone's attention can feel like trying to pull a minnow from a lake with your bare hands. People are busy and often distracted. Facilitating is like fishing because the task is much easier if you have a great hook.
Here’s another list to help you draw people into discussion:
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Remember that facilitating interaction is different than presenting or lecturing. Small groups should be comfortable and informal. Listening to what others have to say is as important as speaking well. Listen actively and nonjudgmentally, encouraging other learners to do the same.
Review these points to ensure active participants:
At the other end of the spectrum from a disengaged group, you might occasionally encounter participants who are a bit too zealous. At times, you may have to quiet or redirect individuals who are disrupting the experience.
As small-group leaders, creating a safe environment for participation should always be at the front of your mind. Here are some things you’ll need to do to create that kind of healthy environment.
Your ultimate success is about one thing: contributing to life-giving gatherings. Ideally, group members will learn new things about themselves, others and God. As you conclude your meeting, come up with a follow-up idea or two about how participants can review and apply key points.
Here’s a final list to keep in mind as you translate everything that happened during your meeting and wrap-up.
Periodically, ask small-group participants to provide feedback about the experience. Just be sure you know how to give and take criticism with an open heart and mind before deciding what to do with that information.
If we plan well, we will create engaging meetings in safe environments where group members can deepen relationships.