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Connect Leader Training

Facilitating a Group Discussion

Part 8: Facilitating a Group Discussion

I want to look at four points when leading a group discussion: The first one is preparing for group discussion.

Preparing for a Group Discussion

Preparation is important because it honours God and the people sitting in your lounge each week.  But also realise that many of us are juggling busy schedules and so, we are looking to cut down on our preparation time; what I find really helpful is to use the Connect Group Resource that gets sent out from the church every week. It is in no way meant to limit us regarding what we can cover. But what I love about it is that it takes the topic that we cover on a Sunday at church and puts it into question form. It allows us to ask questions in Connect group, making it practical and applicable. I like to use it in my preparation to get an angle on my discussion and to add some questions to that.


It is also helpful to pray in our preparation because the Holy Spirit knows each person coming each night and where they’re at. And so it’s really important to rely on Him in our preparation so that we don’t miss the mark completely. But I also find it helpful to try to think logically how I  approach the questions that I’m preparing. So that it can take people from A to B in their faith as we progress in the discussion. I also find it super helpful to send the questions on to two or three of my potential leaders so they can look at them. I’m always wondering whether my questions are easy to answer and whether it’s easy for some to understand.

Starting a Group Discussion

The second thing I want to look at is how we start a group discussion.  I start with an icebreaker question or an easy question that everybody can answer, leading to a particular topic. The other day, I did the topic of patience, and my starting question was, “What is your pet peeve?” This was an easy question that anybody could answer, and I’ve got the group talking from the word go, which is a great start.

Ask questions about the Scriptures.

Take a few scriptures and ask people to give their opinion on them. For example, I would ask questions like, “What stands out to you about this?” and “What can you take and apply to your own life out of those verses?” This is not then an opportunity to prepare a sermon and to preach a sermon to connect the group rather, it’s a discussion, and it’s successful when everybody else is talking instead of me. If, like me, you hate awkward silences, you will be tempted to give people the answer as soon as you’ve asked a question if nobody answers right away. But I want to encourage you to give it some time; most people take a little bit of time to think about the question and then to have the courage to answer that question. What is also helpful is to carefully listen to what people say.  Often because we want to rush ahead to the next question while people are answering, we look down at our notes to see what to say next. But I found that if you can listen to what people are saying in the answers, it can give you amazing opportunities to have one on one conversations with people afterwards about what they’ve said, you’ll often see Jesus asking questions of people, and they might seem abstract or surface level at the beginning.

You can see that Jesus lets those questions lead to a heart motive or a place of vulnerability, which is what we want to do and connect group two; we start off at a surface level and lead people into depth and connection.

What I always find helpful in terms of vulnerability is to share something personal from my own life, which gives others the courage to do the same. What’s also helpful is for potential leaders to be the first ones to answer questions. Sometimes it takes some time for people to get the courage to answer. But it just breaks the ice if you can get a few of your potential leaders to answer upfront.

If the conversation is not going well and everyone’s not talking, sometimes it’s helpful to ask a regular member, “What do you think?” just to keep the conversation going?

Landing a Group Discussion

It’s helpful for every group discussion to have one big idea and lead all your questions towards that endpoint. In other words,  “What do I want people to walk away with?” It’s very helpful as a Connect Group Leader if those final questions can be about practical application and a take-home message.


Our job as Connect Group Leaders is to lead people towards the Word of God, which impacts how they live. We don’t just want to be hearers of the word but doers of the word. We have the amazing privilege of allowing people to digest the word of God, which allows them to make good decisions in everyday life.

Challenges of Leading A Group Discussion

I have been in the most incredible group discussions where there is vulnerability and connection, and amazing results come from the group discussion. And then I have been in the most horrific group discussions where you lie in bed that night, thinking, how could that discussion have ended up like that? It is no surprise to me that when we take a whole lot of different people from different upbringings who are in various different stages in their spiritual journey, and we ask them their opinion, things don’t go as planned.  A few of the challenges I faced is, firstly, when you have your big idea and you have the direction of the discussion, but somebody asks a question that takes the discussion in a completely different direction.

If you feel that it is adding to the discussion, and people are engaging, and it’s on the right track, by all means, let it continue. But in other scenarios, sometimes a question may hijack the whole discussion. And it is not going in the direction you had in mind or felt for the meeting. In such scenarios, it might be a good idea to say something like, “Thank you so much for your input; you have a really great angle on that; could I ask that we park this idea, and we can chat about it afterwards?” This helps to get back on track with our discussion.  The other scenario that I’ve had is when somebody says something biblically incorrect. Now, there are two approaches here that I’ve taken. On the one hand, if it’s something major, where the whole discussion now becomes about the comment that has been made, and there’s a lack of truth there, it’s helpful to bring biblical truth in a gentle and kind way so that the person doesn’t feel humiliated. On the other hand, if it’s a passing comment, that doesn’t take centre stage for the Connect group meeting. In other scenarios, I might just talk to the person one on one and kill it with neglect so that they aren’t humiliated. You really have to go with your gut feeling there and engage based on how well you know the person.

The other challenge that I’ve had is when somebody dominates the conversation and don’t doesn’t give anybody else a chance to talk. It’s really sad for me in that scenario because I want to hear where everybody’s at since it gives you a doorway into their spiritual journeys. And so a phrase such as, “Thank you so much for your opinion; we’ve loved hearing what you have to say. Could I just interrupt you and ask, does anybody else have an opinion?” This just to gives everybody else a chance to speak as well.

The other challenge that I’ve had in Connect group is, when I was younger, I felt very ill-equipped to lead a Connect group because I felt like I didn’t know the whole Bible, and I was so worried about what if they asked a hard question that I don’t know the answer to? There’s no shame at all and saying, “I’m really not sure what the answer is. Why don’t we both research it and come back and chat about it next week or during the week?” The other way of doing it is to open it up to the group and ask, “Does anybody have a thought on this question?” If you’re not sure where you stand on it yourself, I think it actually brings courage to others when they can see that we, as leaders, are still learning about the Bible, as are they. The last challenge, which is a great challenge to have as when the group grows probably to more than about 14 people, it becomes difficult for every person to give their opinion, you’ll see that it’ll be the more confident outgoing people that will speak, but the quieter ones won’t get an answer in. I found it really helpful to break into smaller groups and to bring through potential leaders that can use the same questions that are prepared, but in a smaller setting and gives everybody an opportunity to share their opinion. What is great about that is that you also get to raise leaders in a safe setting. They don’t have the pressure of the whole meeting, but they still taking a step forward in their personal leadership development.

What an incredible privilege it is that we get to do this week after week.

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