By Jeremy Maxfield
Yogi Berra once said, “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
Most groups have one of two problems when it comes to meaningful spiritual conversation: discussion can feel like pulling teeth or herding cats. Either people won’t talk, or they won’t stop talking about things unrelated to the Bible study. Leading a meaningful conversation that engages the hearts and minds of people takes practice. But healthy discussion can be the difference between people going to a group and growing through a group. A life-changing discussion has the following characteristics.
Everyone participates. Encourage everyone to ask questions, share responses, or read aloud. Discussion isn’t one-sided. Seek balance.
No one dominates—not even the leader. Be sure that what you say takes up less than half of your time together. Ideally, good questions will result in group members speaking at least twice as much as the leader. Politely redirect discussion if anyone dominates.
Nobody is rushed through questions. Don’t feel that a moment of silence is a bad thing. People often need time to think about their responses to questions they’ve just heard. They may also need to gain the courage to share what God is stirring in their hearts. Give room for others to move—including the Spirit.
Input is affirmed and followed up. Always point out something true or helpful in a response. Don’t just move on. Build personal connections with follow-up questions, asking how other people have experienced similar things or how a truth has shaped their understanding of God and the Scripture you’re studying. People are less likely to speak up if they fear that you don’t actually want to hear their answers or that you’re looking for only a certain answer.
God and His Word are central. Opinions and experiences can be helpful, but God has given us the truth. Trust Scripture to be the authority and God’s Spirit to work in people’s lives. You can’t change anyone, but God can. Continually point people to the Word and to active steps of faith.
Ask for action. Discussion is the starting point. Action is the goal. Ask people how they need to respond to what they have heard. Based on what they’ve said, what will they do?
Pay attention to these 6 things during your next group discussion. If your desire is to see lives changed, intentionally engage each person with the truth of God’s Word.