Learn How to Lead a Small Group Discussion

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Today on The Dennis Miller Show, the aforementioned Mr. Miller was interviewing Jim Lehrer about what it takes to moderate a political debate. Here are two simple techniques that we as small group leaders can learn from Lehrer.

  1. The focus is on the participants, not the moderator. Some moderators are better than others at this. It’s a learned skill, Lehrer said, not an innate ability. Small group leaders must learn to keep the focus on the participants, not themselves. The leader’s job is not to teach a lesson, where everyone’s attention is on him or her, but to facilitate (or moderate) a discussion in which participants hear from God as they share with one another. How does a good leader facilitate this? Lehrer’s second comment is helpful.
  2. A moderator must prepare in such a way that he is relaxed enough to listen. Anyone can write and ask great questions, Lehrer said, but you prepare so that you can be relaxed enough to really listen. Lehrer shared a story from the 1960s about interviewing a Senator. The interview went like this: 

Lehrer: “Should we sell more grain to Cuba?”
Senator: “Yes, Jim, I think we should sell more grain to Cuba. But first, we should bomb Havana.”
Lehrer: “What kind of grain, Senator?”

This happens in small groups as well. I’ve watched leaders ask a question from their study guide, followed by a great discussion by the group. Meanwhile, the leader is looking down at his book. As the discussion slows down, the leader looks up and asks the next question, which was already answered during the previous discussion. The leader wasn’t listening. He was thinking about his next question.

Listening is one of the most important skills a small group leader must learn. As a shepherd-leader, focus on the people in the group and prepare in such a way that you can relax enough to listen and join in the discussion.  

Mike Mack is the Connect Minister at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. His most recent book is The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership (Touch Publications). Mike is a small groups coach, consultant, writer, speaker, and cheerleader. In 1995, Mike founded SmallGroups.com, now owned and operated by Christianity Today; he continues to serve on the ministry’s advisory panel. He also regularly blogs at SmallGroupLeadership.blogspot.com. His family is a small group that includes his wife Heidi, their four middle- and high-school-aged children, and their dog, Lainey. Mike is also an avid mountain biker and sports fan.
Used with permission from SmallGroupLeadership.
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