There are many ways to communicate information. These include: 1) lecture, 2)monologue with an opportunity for questions, 3) dialogue and 4) dialogue with practical implementation in a variety of forms. Home groups use a method of facilitating questions that is one of the best ways to help people learn. How is this a good method for this setting? Because you do not know what groups members are understand about a subject matter, unless they are talking about it or acting on it.
Lecture may be more efficient, because one person can communicate facts to a large audience. However, you do not know if this audience understands what is being taught. In my Chemistry 101 class at the University of Minnesota that had over 600 students, the only way the professor knew if they were learning was to give them a test. The professor knew the students were paying for the class, but that did not confirm they would learn the material without accountability. Motivation from payment may help, but the point is there must be some kind of accountability. Facilitation and discussion are a good means of accountability.
Monologue with an opportunity for questions can also be a very efficient format for college or seminary level and the highly motivated people. However, there is still a question of whether or not the class fully understands what they are repeating the information themselves. The ability to explain information is far different than merely hearing it or even asking questions about it.
Dialogue, especially with practical implementation, is the best form to ensure information is understood and assimilated. That is the model used in home groups. It is also called “facilitating questions.” The reason is that by having people answer questions, you have the best opportunity to know if people understand the question, the concept, and if they could explain it to someone else. That is the goal so that the aspect of teaching others in the Great Commission can be fulfilled, “…”teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matt. 28:20 NKJ) Here are several principles to keep in mind regarding the process of facilitating questions.
Open with a Question Everyone can Answer
When facilitating, always open with a question that everyone can answer. This is often called the “ice breaker,” because it is a question that breaks the ice between people and helps everyone feel a part of the group. The question should be related to the topic to be discussed, but simple enough that everyone can and will respond to it. This is an important part of home group because if some people do not answer this question or respond in some way, they often will not respond for the rest of the evening. That may be okay for a meeting or two, but after a while the habit of silence will develop. The person may develop a fear of inadequacy and become comfortable just being silent. That is not good discipleship for the person to grow to spiritual parenthood.
Follow the Questions Provided
The “Message Based Discussion Questions” (MBDQ) are what Grace uses to follow the format of digging deeper into the previous message. There is considerable thought that goes into the questions with the background of the message. However, the questions provided are only a guide and they may be modified or adapted to your particular home group in order to meet the needs of your home group. The issue is not the questions, but the people in your home group. Their spiritual growth is what matters.
Prepare for Follow-up Questions
The leader should always have spent enough time in the question preparation so that follow-up questions can be made. The follow-up questions can be prepared in advance, or adapted at the moment. The reason for follow-up questions is to help the person dig and think deeper about the Scriptures for greater understanding and application.
Follow Where Genuine Interests Lead
The group may have specific questions about the message or the topic. You, as the leader, need to adapt to help the people in your group grow where they are thinking and not restrict them to only the questions provided. Dependence on the Holy Spirit is essential to consider what the genuine interests are, because those interests are likely where there will be greatest growth. Discernment must be used with people who desire to control the discussion.
Do not Intimidate Anyone with Questions
Do not intimidate anyone with asking questions – that is never a desired effect in home groups! Always ensure that encouragement, patience and compassion are key ingredients in facilitating questions. The purpose of questions is not to test people for Bible knowledge, but to facilitate growth in understanding and application. As people assimilate, consider and then respond, they will have a greater learning curve.
Use Levity to help People, but do not diminish the Content
Consider the use of levity and laughter as appropriate to help relax people, but not to diminish the content. In other words, never make fun of Scripture or people, but the use of humble humor draws people together.
Be on Guard for Rabbit Trails and Tangents
There are times when people may respond to questions with rabbit trails and tangents. These are different than genuine interests. An answer can be given, but be careful not to let the discussion go too far down the road, so that the topic is not ambushed and valuable discussion time for the whole group is not lost. See the article on rabbit trails and tangents.
To review, facilitating questions (dialogue with practical implementation) is the best way to ensure participants are learning the topics and building confidence in their ability to discuss spiritual matters. Home group leaders can lead discussions without in-depth Bible knowledge if they have an understanding of the “How to Lead in Home Group” series of articles. When you, as a leader, see men who are gaining confidence in home group, give them an opportunity to lead and then follow up with affirmation and discipleship for future opportunities.