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Facilitating A Meeting,Featured

3 Reasons To Repeat Your Small Group Questions

15 Jul , 2013  

Small group leaders should approach the effective facilitation of a meeting as a craft to master. When someone is skilled at guiding an interactive discussion, their performance is more of an art than it is a technical process. One of the subtle tools in a group leader’s tool kit is the use of “repeating your small group questions.”

Picture this: You’re leading your meeting, you throw out a question and someone promptly chimes in with a great response that takes about 90 seconds. Although it was a beneficial contribution that didn’t take too much time, as soon as he/she is done sharing everyone else is silent with blank stares on their face.

Where do you go from here?

While every situation is unique (especially when you factor in the specific topic and content of a person’s answer), there is one option I’d like to cover briefly in this article. The option I’m referring to is the method of “repeating your original question” to the group after someone is finished talking. This is a very small and subtle function, but it can be the tiny drop of oil that keeps all the parts of the dialogue working smoothly.

How is that? Well, allow me to break down 3 Reasons To Repeat Your Question…

1. You Keep The Conversation Focused

Sometimes a person’s remarks can add value to the group, but there may have been 2 or 3 details they mentioned that can trigger rabbit trail sessions in other people. This is where I say something like, “Thanks for sharing that Suzy, that’s really good. Anybody else? Again, the question is, “Why does God instruct us in this passage to live our lives this way?” ”

This immediately keeps everyone’s mental train on the tracks. You’ve emphasized what aspect of Suzy’s response that you want to keep building on and you’ve eliminated the directions you don’t want people to wander down.

2. You Are Encouraging Other Members To Get Involved

There’s a few subconscious instincts we picked up from our elementary school classes that we need to help people unlearn in our groups. One of them is the “Correct Answer Syndrome.” As children, when a teacher asks a question, the mental loop is closed 95% of the time when another student announces the single correct answer. This is a completely different flow than a small group setting.

When you repeat the original question after someone talks you’re breaking the pattern of people thinking that it’s time to move on because one person has reciprocated. You’re letting them know that the goal is not to fill-in-a-blank but the goal is to grow by wrestling with God’s Word and our life experiences together. When you repeat the original question you’re communicating that you desire to hear from everyone’s perspective.

3. You Remind Those Of Us Who Are Absent Minded

I think we’ve all done this before if we’ve attended more than 2 small group meetings in our lives: You’re sitting there listening (or maybe not listening) and by the time a person is done expressing their point, you forgot the original question!

By simply repeating the original question you help those of us who’s brains are fragmented from all the details and life circumstances that are pulling at our attention spans. Every now and then you’ll have a person who is honest and secure enough to say, “What was the question again?” Most of the time though, if you don’t repeat it on your own everyone else will just sit there with their Christian poker face  :|

While this may sound like too small of a practice to write and read an entire article about, so often the difference between an ordinary facilitator and an extraordinary facilitator is that little bit of “extra.”

Photo Credit: Curt Smith

About the author

Andrew Mason Andrew Mason is the Small Groups Pastor of Real Life Church, a family of churches in the Nor. CA region. He oversees Small Groups and Assimilation. He is Founder of SmallGroupChurches.com, an online community of leaders dedicated to growing churches one small group at a time. Andrew resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife Camille and their son.

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4 Responses

  1. Derek Olson says:

    This was a great post!! The 3 reasons you gave for repeating small group questions are spot on!! 

    “Sometimes a person’s remarks can add value to the group, but there may have been 2 or 3 details they mentioned that can trigger rabbit trail sessions in other people. This is where I say something like, “Thanks for sharing that Suzy, that’s really good. Anybody else? Again, the question is, “Why does God instruct us in this passage to live our lives this way?” 

    This has happened so many times in my small groups where somebody goes on a rabbit trail & it takes us way off course from the intended topic! But by repeating the question, I can truly “Keep the conversation focused” & get it back on track! ThanxCool

  2. Can I add a fourth reason?

    You are giving space for reflectors to answer the question. In most groups, there are one or two people who like to jump in with an answer as soon as the verbal question mark is announced. They are verbal processors and they don’t mind putting out their ideas, whether or not they fully agree with what they are saying. When we repeat the question, we make space for those who take their time to talk.

  3. Andrew Mason says:

    Derek Olson said

    This has happened so many times in my small groups…

    Glad this helped…We’ve all been there Smile

    M. Scott Boren said
    Can I add a fourth reason?

    You are giving space for reflectors to answer the question. In most groups, there are one or two people who like to jump in with an answer as soon as the verbal question mark is announced. They are verbal processors and they don’t mind putting out their ideas, whether or not they fully agree with what they are saying. When we repeat the question, we make space for those who take their time to talk.

    Wish I would’ve thought of that! Great point Scott! Not repeating the question can eliminate the opportunity for the “reflectors” to contribute, resulting in moving on to the next thought too fast.

     

    Sometimes the forum chatter is better than the original thought. That is definitely the case here. Guess the forum allows for more “reflection.” Laugh

     

     

  4. Mike Mack says:

    Great post, Mason, and I agree with your addition, Scott. Funny, I do this all the time without really thinking about it; and I’ve never really thought of it as a “skill,” but it really is! Sometimes after a response or 2 or 3, I’ll repeat the question but with a little different twist. It’s kind of a follow-up question, but it’s staying on the same original point. I find that by rephrasing the question after others answer helps to generate more discussion. 

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