Designing & Leading a Discussion in Home Group Geared Towards Seekers

These materials are intended to help you design and facilitate discussions in your home group geared specifically towards seekers. This can be done as part of an expository series you are currently covering in home group (e.g. inserting a 3 week series on marriage when you reach chapter 5 in Ephesians) or as a stand-alone topical series on relationships, happiness, parenting, coping with stress, etc. (view series other home groups have created).

In a healthy group, folks are always inviting friends and acquaintances to home church. But a short series designed to appeal to guests can infuse real excitement and help build momentum. What follows are steps to you can take to create a discussion or discussion series of your own.

Our Goal

These materials are designed to help you design and facilitate your own discussion-based teaching geared towards seekers.

Why would I want to do this for my home group?

You’re in the best position to design a discussion that appeals to folks that YOUR GROUP is trying to reach.

We’ll look at…

  • how to help your group take ownership of one of these events
  • how to select a TOPIC and a FORMAT for your discussion
  • how to research your topic and design your discussion
  • how to get up in front of people and lead your own discussion
  • how to transition guests who come to an outreach event into regular home group meetings.

Cultivating Group Ownership

Your entire group must embrace and get behind an outreach series/discussion for it to succeed. To cultivate group ownership of your outreach event, I recommend convening a meeting, open to anyone in HC. The goal of the meeting is to select a TOPIC and FORMAT to use for a discussion-based outreach event.

  1. Topic selection:
    • Start by giving your group some general guidelines:
      • Relational topics are usually better (love, dating, marriage, etc.), but other ideas shouldn’t be ruled out.
      • The topic you choose should be driven by the interests of the people you are trying to reach.
    • Make an impact list:
      • Have folks list their hottest contacts – people they’ve had spiritual conversations with recently. No converasations? Then your group has a deeper problem that an outreach event won’t fix. Maybe we better work on that for another month before we try to host an event.
      • Make a chart on a whiteboard with four columns. Put the person’s name in the left column. In the remaining columns, list:
        Name InterestsAreas of Felt NeedObstacles to coming to Christ
         What are they reading? watching? doing in their spare time?What challenges do they feel ill-equipped to handle? parenting, marital conflict, dealing with anxiety, managing finances, etc.Misconceptions Lack of interest Ignorance of the gospel
      • Make sure you designate a scribe record the names so you can use it as a PRAYER LIST for the event.
    • Ask your team to ponder the interests/obstacles/areas of felt need and look for recurring themes.
      • ASIDE: You may realize that the people you’re trying to reach have shared interests that you can design an ACTIVITY around (like softball, playing cards, pool party, etc.)
        e.g. In cell… we realized that men we were in with were into video games… so we held a HALO tournament.
        Make a note of ACTIVITY ideas like this and save them for later.
      • But for the purposes of this meeting, keep your group focused on TOPICS that folks on the impact list would come together to TALK about:
        e.g. Felt needs: You might notice several folks are having a tough time connecting with teenage kids, struggling with substance abuse, alienated from parents, etc.
        e.g. Obstacles: You may notice that several people have been reading the DaVinci code and they’ve bought into the idea that many “gospels” were suppressed and that powerful men chose the gospels included in our Bibles.
    • Prime the pump
      • To stimulate thinking on interests, felt needs, and obstacles, during the meeting put the following info in their hands (you’ll need to prepare this material in advance):
        e.g. Amazon.com, NY Times best selling books.
    • Let the debate begin
      Encourage people to both share their own ideas and evaluate what others have to say. Let the debate rage a little. Usually, two or three good ideas will emerge. Narrow your topic ideas down to the two or three best. Take a vote, or say a final decision will be made in your leader’s meeting. Pray about it and make your decision. You’ve spent an evening thinking about your outreach, deepening burdens, building excitement and cultivating ownership. That’s a good thing!
  2. Format selection - There are several options are available here:
    • C&C – You’ll need a flier. Prepare a sit down dinner with outstanding food and a discussion to follow.
    • Coffee House
      • Coffees from around the world
      • Maybe bring in some live acoustic music – instrumental Jazz.
      • Have some tasty desserts
    • Desert and Discussion – Variety of tasty deserts followed by a discussion.
    • Barbarian Barbecue – Great for men’s outreach events. Something on being a good dad? Grill fish, chicken wings, steak, etc… buy some Bud Light.
    • Book club – Several people you know may be reading a book that just came out. “Conversations with God” was big a few years ago. “Five People You Meet in Heaven,” “The DaVinci Code,” etc. Ask everyone to read the book in advance, then comes together to discuss it.
      • Pros: Often can do this with several books over a series of months, giving you multiple contacts with the same people.
      • Neg: If people don’t finish the book, the feel reluctant to show up.
  3. Mobilizing your group
    • Delegate the responsibility for putting the event together and give people a chance to use their gifting and help out.
      e.g. Noushi Stouffer running around doing everything.
    • Facilitator:
      • Pick someone who has a proven track record of leading good discussions in home group and cell.
      • Someone who is able to speak with confidence.
      • If you’re interested in doing this, be sure to use every chance you can to sharpen your skills in leading discussions.
    • Research assistants - The facilitator should ask a few folks in the group to help with research. Can save a lot of time, and again, create shared ownership.
    • Point person: Select a good administrator who will ensure that event planning is running along smoothly. The point person should oversee a team of people that handle event logistics like…
      e.g. making and distributing invitations, set up/ cleaning up, food preparation.

Researching your topic

  1. Remember what you’re trying to do…
    You are designing a leader-guided (a.k. a. “moderated”) group discussion. Not a total free-for all. But a discussion with structure, guided by a facilitator. That means you, the facilitator should be familiar with the topic and bring some level of expertise to the subject. You don’t have to read every book, but you need to get acquainted with the relevant material. You need to read some of what has been written.
  2. Where to begin?
    • Haven’t researched anything since high school or college? It can be kind of intimidating. But it’s really not that hard.
    • The Upper Arlington Public Library has a great reference department with a very helpful staff. With a library card, you can access thousands of magazine articles in full text.
    • Get with a reference librarian… they inevitably turn you on to resources you aren’t aware of.
    • Online magazines like Time and Newsweek offer word searches on back issues.
  3. What are you looking for during your research?
    • Good quotes - Clear, understandable, provocative quotes related to your topic.
    • Opposing perspectives:
      • e.g. Simplify Your Life… Is simplifying your life a matter of slowing down or does it require a change in your outlook?
      • Is this true: "Give yourself whole weekend days of sanctuary -- no phone, no television, no Internet -- then take that walk, write that poem, or sit in the tub." - Jeff Davidson, Eight Ways to Simplify Your Life, Public Management, Feb 2000, vol. 82, issue 2, p. 27.
      • Or is this true: "At some point we began to realize that the world was not going to accommodate us by making fewer demands. We each learned that our inner experience of stress resulted not from the circumstances of our harried lives, but from our habitual way of perceiving life. We learned that we could change our inner worlds - our feelings, our stress levels, even the speed of our lives - by tapping into a way of thinking  that makes life easier, simpler, and much more enjoyable.“ - Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out, p. xxv. Italics mine.
      • Collect quotes in pairs like this. They will come in handy later.
    • Find real or devise imaginary scenarios where the topic under discussion has an impact on individuals.
      • Topic: Animal rights and human responsibility
      • Situation: “Of course, there were limited seats on the bus and this woman came next in line. She was holding back two large dogs on a leash. She refused to get on the bus unless she could bring her dogs as well. People behind her were yelling to hurry up. Everyone was yelling… I told her no pets were permitted and she walked away in tears. I mean, what would you have done?”
    • Become familiar with the views of leading scholar(s) and expert(s) this area:
      • Usually there are a handful of names that will begin to recur in your research.
        • e.g. Love – Leo Buscaglia
        • e.g. Simplifying Your Life – Elaine St. James
      • Pay attention to who those people are and become as familiar as you can with their work. Try to work their ideas into your discussion.
    • At the end of all this research, you will have a mound of information, a jumble of unrelated quotes and ideas, etc. How do you begin shaping all this data into a good discussion?

Designing Your Discussion

It is difficult to sift through the information you have gathered and organize it into a coherent plan for a stimulating discussion. But organize you must! In the absence of any clear direction from a facilitator, students will tend to focus on different aspects of the main topic or problem. This can frustrate participants, because they often view comments by other students as “off topic” or “irrelevant.” I’ve provided a worksheet titled Designing A Discussion to help you organize your research into a well-designed discussion.

  1. Introduction
    When people first sit down together, they are not ready to discuss anything.  Most people come to an outreach event self conscious, unsure of what they’re getting into, without thoughts to share, or any desire to speak. Knowing this, the worst thing you could do is to start the discussion by asking a question. Instead, the leader must stimulate and excite the group about the subject under consideration.  During the first part of the meeting, the burden is completely on the facilitator to RAISE AWARENESS and AROUSE INTEREST.
    • Raise awareness: Exactly WHAT is your topic about? Why is the topic RELEVANT or IMPORTANT? Why are issues surrounding your topic URGENT?
      • e.g. The DaVinci Code
      • WHAT : The DaVinci code is a best selling novel by Dan Brown about a historian who uncovers secrets about the origins of Christianity hidden in famous works of art. It’s important to clearly DEFINE what you want to discuss.
      • RELEVANCE/IMPORTANCE: This book was the best-selling non-fiction book in 2003.
      • URGENT: Brown makes the provocative claim that the Bible’s description of Jesus is inaccurate. He claims that the truth about Christ was suppressed by powerful men who were hiding the real truth. If that’s true, Christians, for almost 2 millennia, have followed Jesus with a skewed view of who he really was. They’ve been deliberately kept from knowing the truth.
    • Arouse interest:  People should be sitting up, furrowing their brows, smiling, laughing, and in other ways showing that they have been impacted emotionally, whether excited, disturbed, insulted (be careful with this one), or inspired. How is this done?
      • Be PERSONAL… how has this topic impacted your life?
      • Use HUMOR.
      • Be ENTHUSIASTIC. Inexperienced discussion leaders tend to feed off the energy in the room. You’ll need to push and bring energy into your introduction to get folks to actively engage the topic. 
      • Exercise: Read these sample introductions and evaluate them based on the criteria above.
  2. Choose your quotes
    • Gather your quotes. Hold them; sniff them; read them. Immerse yourself in them. Try them out on other people. Get their reaction. Annoy your spouse and children with your quotes. Then narrow down the ones you want to use. Pick the ones that…
      • …were provocative – that caused a strong reaction
      • …that illustrate opposing points of view
    • Write them down on the grid provided in the Designing A Discussion worksheet. Look for connections, recurring themes, and areas of agreement and especially disagreement.
  3. Formulate QUESTIONS and SCENARIOS
    • GOOD QUESTIONS and well chosen SCENARIOS will make or break a discussion. If you fail to capture the imagination of participants or ask vague and murky questions, your discussion won’t be effective.
    • Questions to avoid:
      1. RECITATION questions - In a recitation, the discussion leader asks questions requiring specific knowledge of the topic. Recitation questions leave no room for discussion. One answer is given and then the question is over. Or worse yet, the wrong answer is given, requiring the facilitator to correct the person speaking. Examples are:
        • Topic: Cloning
          Recitation Question: Which animals have scientists already successfully cloned?
        • Topic: Internet and Relationships
          Recitation Question: Who knows when the internet began?
        • Topic: Evolution and Biblical Christianity
          Recitation Question: What does the Bible teach about the origin of mankind?
      2. “YES/NO” questions (or questions with a limited set of answers).
        • Quote: "A particularly pernicious myth is that 'healing requires forgiveness’ of the abuser. For the victim of emotional abuse, the most viable form of help is self-help – and a victim handicapped by the need to ‘forgive’ the abuser is a handicapped helper indeed." Andrew Vachss, "You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart" in Parade Magazine, Aug. 28, 1994. p. 6.
          Question: Do you agree with Vachss’ claim that victims are “handicapped” by the need to forgive?
          Feedback: Questions like this are “closed-ended” because they elicit a limited set of responses – in this case “yes” or “no.” These responses rarely lead to a quality discussion. Better to give them a contrasting quote and ask “what do you think?”
        • Quote: “The abuser has no right to forgiveness--such blessings can only be earned. And although the damage was done with words, true forgiveness can only be earned with deeds." Andrew Vachss, "You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart" in Parade Magazine, Aug. 28, 1994. p. 6.
          Quote: “Love cannot last long or live out its eternal purpose in human relationships without a foundation of forgiveness." Dan Allender, Bold Love p. 41
          Question: Vachss says the abuser has no right to forgiveness. Allender says forgiveness is foundational to love. What do you think?
      3. Wordy and confusing questions.
        • If students must work to decipher your questions, they are less likely to respond to it. Prior to the discussion, ask someone to look over your questions and check them for clarity.
        • Also watch out for wordy and confusing quotes. If you find yourself needing to summarize a quote so that it make sense, it needs to go.
      4. Questions with obvious answers - Example:
        • Quote: “What will posterity see as the chief Christian blind spot at the end of the twentieth century? While a thousand million people are destitute, lacking the basic necessities for survival, and while about 10,000 people die of starvation daily… should not the Christian voice of protest be louder and more strident? And should we not... personally share more and express appropriately our sense of compassion and solidarity with the poor?” – John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p. 192
          Bad question: “Does Stott believe the western church is doing enough to meet the needs of the poor?”
          Feedback: This can be insulting if overdone.
          Good Quesiton: “How would the average Christian in the United States respond to what Stott is saying?”
    • Questions to use:
      1. Ask them to respond to two opposing quotes.
        • Review the areas of disagreement that you came up with in your quotes. Use the best quotes you can find to tease out those areas of disagreement.
        • "To love somebody is not just a strong feeling - it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision?" - Erich Fromm, a German-American psychoanalyst, author, and teacher. Fromm held that industrial society imbues man with a sense of isolation and doubt about the meaning of life.
        • "Love's symptoms are familiar enough: a drifting mooniness in thought and behavior, the mad conceit that the entire universe has rolled itself up into the person of the beloved, a conviction that no one on earth has ever felt so torrentially about a fellow creature before. Love is ecstasy and torment, freedom and slavery." Paul Gray, What is Love? Time 2/15/93
      2. Ask them to respond to a provocative quote.
        • Some quotes are so good, all you need to do is read the quote and ask people for their reaction:
        • e.g. Topic: Simplifying Your Life. Quote: “I’m referring to an impossible marriage or a relationship that isn’t going anywhere, and that is causing you stress or pain. If you’re in such a relationship, and you’ve tried to fix it and you can’t, get out…Perhaps it’s time to think about moving on from a relationship that no longer works for you…” – Elaine St. James, Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Really Matter, p. 182,183.
        • Elaine says when the going gets tough, the tough get out. What do you say?
      3. Ask them to draw on their own personal experiences.
        • e.g. Topic: The afterlife.
          Question: How have your beliefs about the afterlife changed over the last several years? How would you explain this change?
          Avoid phrasing this as an academic way. E.g. how have American beliefs about the afterlife changed.
        • e.g. Topic: Simplify Your Life
          After reviewing 4 different ways to simplify your life (scaling back time commitments, retreat to the woods, less stuff/ more depth, cultivating your spiritual life) ask them what they’ve done.
          Question: Someone here has tried to do this… you’ve read one of these books and tried it out. What did you do? How did it go?
    • Scenarios - Scenarios are probably the most powerful tool that discussion leaders have at their disposal. By relating your topic to real life situations, and asking for a response, you can really get people talking. I wish we could say more about this. Review page 8 of the Designing A Discussion worksheet for tips on how to do this. Let’s look at some sample scenarios on the topic of “To Judge or not to Judge - Is it OK to judge the actions of others?” (The scenarios on this page were originally part of a Conversation and Cuisine discussion created by Dennis McCallum)
      Think about the following scenarios. A person renders a judgment in each situation. Participants are asked to state whether the person’s judgment (thought/action) is BAD or OK  in each situation. After they have thought through each scenario, select a few to discuss. Asking for reactions to various scenarios will lead to rich and at times heated discussion. This is much better than posing a simple question.
      1. Your other friend at work announces that she is getting divorced. She has fallen in love with another man, and though she has two children, she has told her husband she cannot continue to live a lie. Her husband and children are crushed, but she feels she must be true to herself. You let her know you disapprove of her selfishness, lack of loyalty and willingness to hurt other's feelings. 
      2. Your ten-year-old son is working on his math. You form a judgment and then point out that he has the answer wrong on a multiplication problem and tell him to do the problem over.
      3. A fifteen-year-old daughter announces to her mom that she has now rejected Mom's religion, Judaism, and joined her boyfriend in embracing Islam. Mom refuses to allow her to go to mosque, and demands that she continue to attend temple.
      4. As you come over a hill, you catch your golf partner and employee cheating by tossing his ball out from behind a tree. You ask how he did on his shot, and he pretends the ball landed where it is now. You begin to question the promotion you were going to give him.
      5. You visit a Santari ritual where they sacrifice a chicken and sprinkle the blood on their heads. In your heart you are repelled, and you think it's disgusting.
      6. You know your brother smokes marijuana. You decide to tell him it’s wrong for him to continue to do something that is illegal and dangerous to his career as a municipal judge.
      7. Your brother is an alcoholic who went through recovery several years ago after nearly losing his family. Now he is drinking again, so you decide to confront him and demand he return to his recovery group.
      8. Your friend believes Elvis Presley is in the Federal witness protection program. You think he's stupid.
  4. Choosing a template and writing an outline
    • So you’ve done the research, picked your quotes, chosen your questions and scenarios, but the discussion itself still hasn’t taken shape.
    • Start by developing a discussion template – think in broad terms about what you’d like to cover during the discussion. This will help give participants the sense that the discussion is “headed somewhere.” See page 2 of the Designing A Discussion worksheet for examples.
    • Write a template out in the left-hand column – spread it out over two pages. Then, in right-hand  column, insert your introduction and the quotes and scenarios that are appropriate for that part of the template.
  5. The conclusion: leave participants with something to think about.
    • When possible, end with unanswered questions that serve as a springboard for spiritual conversations.
    • e.g. Read the last two quotes on the Simplify your Life reaction sheet on page 11 of the Designing A Discussion worksheet.
  6. Using a reaction sheet
    • Some discussion facilitators compose "Reaction Sheets" on their subjects. These sheets usually supply statements from authorities, imaginary scenarios, or thought provoking questions. You put these in the hands of folks who attend your discussion. I like to use them… they help to focus everyone’s attention on the subject and help the facilitator move the participants through the discussion.
    • e.g. See the Simplifying Your Life reaction sheet on pages 9-11 of the Designing A Discussion worksheet.
    • Using numbers or letters for each section of the reaction sheet is helpful. It helps you orient your audience quickly to the information you want them to consider. It also enables you to easily skip ahead and run with a hot topic if needed.

General tips on discussion delivery

  1. Don’t blow the introduction - Don't forget to…
    • introduce yourself! e.g. “Who are you?”
    • explain the event’s connection with Xenos and your home group.
      • The group sponsoring the event is Christian.
      • They put these events on several times a year as an opportunity to share ideas with friends outside the group.
    • state the ground rules:
      • Different views are welcome, and disagreement will make the discussion more interesting.
      • Feel free to interrupt me.
      • Feel free to contribute or to just take it all in.
    • watch your length: You can introduce a topic and generate interest very quickly (maybe 5 minutes or less). Whatever you do, don’t exhaust the attention span of your audience! That is very hard to recover from.
  2. Put forth questions DECISIVELY, and follow them with SILENCE - Resist the temptation to fill up the awkward silence by restating the question. Count slowly to 10 to make sure you’re waiting long enough. If you have folks in your group who like to answer immediately, get with them before hand and tell them to sit tight. People need time to process what you’re saying. A little silence is OK.
  3. Pay attention to your pace
    • A rushed pace leaves everyone feeling frustrated and angry that they aren’t getting a chance to share their views, or that people are being cut off before they finish. They may feel disgusted that the subject was only superficially discussed.
    • A slow pace leaves people bored and frustrated as well. People don’t feel like they are being challenged or learning anything.
    • “Wait for at least two or three comments before changing direction or moving discussion along with another query, or moving back to lecture. On the other hand, students’ enthusiasm for responding usually wanes after five of six comments and the instructor must then exert leadership once again.” [see Lowman, 182,3]
  4. Be flexible
    • If group interest spontaneously leads elsewhere, and the discussion is productive and everyone is engaged, you should be prepared to alter or even drop our plans. I realize I talked about staying on topic earlier… but there will be times when the discussion is so good, so personal, so heartfelt and honest, that you’d be nuts to squelch it by insisting everyone stick with your reaction sheet. That’s a tough call to make, but you need to have a category for “bagging the plan” and letting a rich vein of discussion continue.
    • High control people need to give this over to the Lord when this type of situation is developing and let the Spirit have his say.
  5. Constantly monitor your audience.Learn to read the situation regarding pace and react appropriately. Develop sensitivity to the facial and body signals from the group during discussion. If you sense a lull… continue to move the subject forward as needed.
    • ALWAYS stop before they’re bored. Leaving them willing to talk is much more important that covering everything you have prepared.
    • "An orator receives continuous guidance from the people before whom he speaks. This helps him to correct the direction of his speech; for he can always gauge, by the faces of his hearers, how far they follow and understand him, and whether his words are producing the desired effect.”
    • There’s a lot of truth in that, unfortunately it’s another quote from Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler. Volume Two - The National Socialist Movement; Chapter VI: The Struggle of the Early Period -- The Significance of the Spoken Word.
    • This, by the way, is a very powerful tool in a discussion. Get people to react to a quote… even take sides with it. And then reveal who the author is. Very sneaky.
  6. Play Devil’s advocate: Challenge a position that everyone seems to accept.
    • At times, you will need to be provocative, playing the role of Devil’s Advocate to keep the group on its toes and the discussion vital.
    • e.g. Topic: Technology. Question: “Is technology making our lives simpler or needlessly complex?” In a discussion I was leading, everyone gravitated toward “it makes our lives too complicated” side. I had to throw out an alternate view to draw them in more. “I can pick up the phone, call someone, and be finished talking in 3 minutes. I don’t have to saddle my horse and ride it 3 miles to their house. Doesn’t that make things easier?”
  7. What if…? - Are you beginning to feel nervous about really doing this? Here are some of the “what if’s” people often ask before they try their first discussion:
    • What if they ask YOU a question? - Throw it back out to the group for consideration. “What do you guys think?”
    • What if they get mad?
      • The presence of anger is not a bad thing in group interaction! At minimum, we know that the angry commenter is engaged in the discussion.
      • A panicked response from the leader or other members moving to quench the anger may do more harm than the anger itself. You must be perceived as fair and undefensive in this situation.
      • There are ways the facilitator can handle an angry comment and keep the discussion moving along:
        • Draw them out: "I see this upsets you quite a bit. What’s behind how you feel?”
        • Reflect their feelings: "You’re angry that ________________. What would you suggest as an alternative?”
        • Try to understand: "Are you upset because. . ." Speculate on what you think is the cause.
        • A little firmer: "Well, I think what you’re saying may be important for us to discuss, but I hope we can discuss it without losing respect for each other"
    • What if someone dominates the discussion?
      • “A discussion leader who lets students talk on and on with little control or direction will soon lose the group’s attention.” - Mastering the Techniques of Teaching (Second Edition), Joseph Lowman (San Francisco, Josey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 1995) p.165.
      • Prepare your own home group folks in advance (by email discussion group or in cells) what to do and not do. 
      • Don’t be afraid to stop a 3rd or fourth sharing by saying, “let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken yet.”
      • Don’t be afraid to interrupt a longwinded sharing by saying, "If I understood you correctly, Janice so far you are saying that. Let’s hear what someone else has to say about that."
    • What if someone completely misses the point of the question or totally misunderstands a quote?
      • This is the awkward moment when you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t know what spaceship you just stepped off of, but…”
      • How you respond these in situations like this is important. People are weighing out whether or not to risk speaking up. Their willingness to do so hinges partly on the way they see you respond to everyone else’s comments. Showing annoyance or frustration at a dense, misguided response will drastically narrow the range of people who are willing to participate. Participants learn more from how you handle wayward responses than from your reaction to obviously brilliant answers.
      • For the person who is off the topic…
        • “So you seem to be saying there IS some value to forgiveness. Now let’s try to look at situations where forgiveness should be extended.” 
        • Summarize their response and relate them back to the issue being discussed.
        • "I realize what you’re saying is important in some contexts, but I’d like to finish with the question I raised earlier."
      • For the person who misunderstood the quote…
        • "Yes, that’s interesting. I wonder how you would respond to the author’s assertion that ____________.” Here you’re affirming what they’ve said, but gently explaining a part of the quote they may have misunderstood.
        • "Okay, that reminds me of what Jim said. But how would this author likely react to what you’re saying?" Again, gently suggesting they need to take a harder look at the quote they are reacting to.
        • The same thing goes for a misunderstood question:
        • "Okay, great! But I wonder if we really ever addressed the question I raised earlier?"
      • For the person who simply makes no sense.  -  "Okay, what do the rest of us think about this?” A harmless response for someone who is unintelligible.
  8. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – be positive and enthusiastic!!!
    • Good discussion leaders let you know with their body, their tone or voice… with everything they have that they hear and appreciate what someone has to say. They make people want to talk.
    • Listen carefully to each point (making eye-contact, nodding, smiling, showing recognition or concern, etc.) as appropriate
    • As a discussion leader, you need to take your attention off self, off your outline, and onto what people are saying. You need to sparkle in your best personality, exuding friendliness, enthusiasm, intensity, and good humor, all in proper balance.
    • Introduce energy, enthusiasm, humor, and friendliness into the discussion. Laugh, be animated, REACT to what the speaker is sharing

Final thoughts

The importance of planning and good follow-up.

  • A good topic and facilitator do not ensure a good event. You can have great food, a great facilitator, but if your group isn’t informed, excited and challenged to invite folks, the event will be a flop.
  • Promote the event well in advance. - Give your group the info and material they need EARLY enough to promote the event. Get stuff in their hands no later than four weeks out.
  • Bathe the entire effort in prayer.
  • Follow-up with guests who attend:
    • In Leader’s meeting determine who will pursue who.
    • Think through the next step for guests
    • Consider developing a home group teaching series that would serve as a good sequel to your discussion. This can provide a natural transition from the discussion-based outreach event to HC. The Study Center has a notebook of home group teaching series ideas that you can use. Consider keeping the same discussion format you used during the outreach event throughout your homegroup series.
    • Consider having invitations to Central Teaching or to your next home group meeting at your discussion event. Have someone make an announcement that calls attention to the invitations.
      e.g. “The discussion you’ve just participated in is very similar to the discussions on the Bible that we have in home church. Come check it out.”