Note: It’s now 2019 and three years have past since I posted the first three articles on Facilitating. In reviewing those posts, I realize that more is need on third step – “Giving work to the group”. Also, fourth step which I call “Debriefing”.)
*Watch the video and then continue with the assignments below the video (click on the picture to watch this video).
Four steps in facilitating a group.
- Evaluate the group. Step back and assess where your group is spiritually, emotionally, relationally. Just as a parent adapts to the developmental stage of their family, so a facilitator adapts to the maturity level of their group.
- See/observe the group when it meets. Seeing takes place on two levels. On the human/physical level, you are watching to see how they relate to one another. You are paying attention to relational dynamics. On the spiritual level, you are watching to see what Jesus is doing in the group. Remember, that when we meet in His name, He is present. It is His group/church and He is building it. Our job is to see what He is doing and how we are to join Him. In addition, you are training the group to observe itself on these two levels. (With questions like… “Did you see what just happened there?” Or, “What is your (addressing the group) sense of what Jesus is doing today?”)
- Give work to the group. The first work for the group to do is to learn to celebrate (appreciate, honor) both the people in the group and the group as a whole. Even more important is helping the group see what Jesus is doing in their midst. The second kind of work is to learn to deal with problems/issues/questions that arise in the group. Working through these things is how the group grows. I’ll say more about that below.
- Debrief/Receive coaching. In some ways, learning to facilitate a group is like learning a sport or learning a musical instrument. With a little help anyone can begin using the skill of facilitating and see significant results. On the other hand, becoming proficient requires ongoing training, practice and feedback. The article you are reading right now is just a starting point. We encourage you to consider going deeper. In LK10, we offer two opportunities for ongoing training. 1. Leader 101 (which includes Leader Teams) 2. Listed Facilitator Training
Insights for giving work to the group.
- Your goal as a facilitator (or parent) is to teach the group to think/process for itself. Probably you have heard the phrase, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Sometime you will need to give you group a “fish”. That is, answer a question, solve a problem for them. But, as much as possible (based on your evaluation of what the group can handle) “teach them to fish”. Teach them, as a group, to find the answers and solve the problems themselves. (Just like good parenting!)
- As much as possible, address the group not individuals in the group. Remember that your goal is to disciple the group. The more you do that, the more the group will disciple the individuals in the group.
- As much as possible, make observations and ask questions to the group. Examples of that below. Do as little teaching as possible but as much as is needed.
- Pay attention to the group’s relational process/dynamic at least as much as content/issues. In other words, if you can help a group remain relational they will often do a good job of working through issues themselves.
- Help them learn to pay attention to what God is doing in their midst.
Examples of giving work to the group:
Note: In order to give every member a voice, you may want to have the group respond to the questions below in rounds. “Bob, would you go first. Then, Sally. Etc.”)
- Issue: one member of the group (perhaps an introvert) has been silent through the meeting.
- Facilitator: First, watch and see if the group notices and addresses the person who hasn’t shared. Mature, well discipled groups know how to handle this themselves. If they don’t…
- Facilitator (Good): Addressing the group: “I’ve noticed that Bob hasn’t said anything so far. What would you (the group) like to do about that?
- Facilitator (Better): Addressing the group: “What is your assessment about how we are doing at giving everyone in the group a voice today?”
- Issue: one member of the group has been talking too much (overtalking)
- Facilitator: First, watch and see if the group notices and addresses the overtalker. Mature, well discipled groups know how to handle this themselves. If they don’t…
- Addressing the group: “What is your assessment about how we are doing at giving everyone in the group a voice today? What are we doing well? How could we improve?” (Note: mentioning the overtalker directly might be too embarrassing for them.)
- Issue: none (or few) of the group has done the homework that was agreed upon.
- Facilitator: Same as above. First, watch and see if the group notices this problem and takes steps to deal with it. If they don’t…
- Facilitator: Addressing the group: “I’m noticing that not very many people have done their homework. I’m curious about that. (Note: words like “noticing” and “curious” are important facilitator words!) Let’s do a round on that so everyone can share their thoughts about homework getting done.” Possible follow up question: “How would you like to handle the issue of homework in the future?”
- Issue: a member of the group makes a comment that is biblically inaccurate or even heretical. “Well, I think all religions are equally true.”
- Here it is especially important for the facilitator to access the biblical and spiritual maturity of the group. Can they handle a situation like this? There are times when the facilitator will need to take off their facilitator “hat” and step in to teach or direct.
- As above, watch and see how the group responds to this. Do they ignore it? Do they handle it defensively and get into an argument? Mature, well discipled groups handle this kind of situation gently and effectively. If they don’t…
- Facilitator: Some possible responses… “I noticed the comment about all religions being the same. I’m wondering what the other members think about that? “This is an important issue. What are some ways we could process this effectively as a group?” (Notice that this questions shifts the emphasis from the content of the issue to the process of dealing with the issue.) After a bit of discussion… “This is an important issue. But, we have made a commitment to spend most of our time in our meeting discussing the homework. How can we stay faithful to our commitment to the homework and also give attention to this issue?” (One option the group might come up with is for some or all of the group to discuss the issue outside of the regular meeting and to report back to the group.)
Note to facilitators: Meetings are generally most fruitful if you begin by facilitating an appreciation round (2 minutes each?) at the beginning and a closing round at the end.