Whether in a business meeting or in a spiritual discussion group, keeping focused on what you set out to do doesn’t happen naturally. It takes intentional facilitation and the cooperation of the group. Getting off track undermines the purpose of the group and causes frustration.
Three simple Discussion Tips will help your group stay focused so that your discussions are satisfying and purposeful. Here they are:
1. Stick to the topic or passage under discussion in order to build a common frame of reference. Refer to other material only if your group has studied it together.
Why? When you focus on a topic or passage, your discussion will be deeper. When you are studying the Bible, skipping around easily leads to taking passages out of context. While it is often very difficult for Christians to stay in one passage, cross-referencing is very intimidating to those who are new to the Bible!
2. Avoid tangents. Many ideas will surface during the discussion. If the subject is not dealt with in any detail in the material, do not let it occupy too much time. Discuss any peripheral topic after the study.
Tangents waste time and are the primary means of taking you off track. You won’t have all the information with you to deal with the topic. They become boring to others. They can prevent you from talking about what everyone has prepared to discuss.
3. When discussing the Bible, let it speak for itself. Instead of quoting other authorities (other books, church leaders, or notes in the Bible), try to discover the facts, meaning, and application of the passage together while avoiding religious jargon.
When discussing the Bible, you are learning to go to the primary source and see it for yourself. Rather than relying on experts to tell you what to think, discovering answers for yourself is satisfying!
An easy way to be sure you’re not slipping into religious jargon is to stick to terms that are used in the passage that you are reading. For example, in Mark 2, “born again” and “saved” are not found, but “your sins are forgiven” is.
After sharing these Discussion Tips in our neighborhood group, everyone there readily agreed to them, even though we were discussing a book and not the Bible. One man in our group has facilitated many business discussions, and he commented that guidelines similar to these would also be valuable in his line of work. After experiencing the value of guidelines first-hand in many spiritual discussions, I wouldn’t be surprised!
How have these guidelines impacted our neighborhood group? First of all, they got us started on the right foot, so we don’t have group habits that we now have to unlearn. Once in a while a group member will get off track, but often it doesn’t take long before he or she self-corrects. And since we have a common understanding of how we want the group to operate, it isn’t difficult to refocus when needed.
Q Place National Field Leader
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