5 Facets of Facilitating With Finesse

Posted By: Andrew Mason

5 Facets of Facilitating With Finesse


What does peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper and spaghetti and meatballs have to do with leading a small group? The same way those ingredients compliment each other is the same way a small group should compliment the Sunday services. Too much of a good thing is bad for recipes and the body of Christ.

In a typical service there is corporate worship and preaching. People are sitting in rows together but not interacting much with each other. The potential for fellowship and personal connection is extremely low. This is sufficient as long as its not the church’s only expression.

In order for small groups to compliment the weekend experience the small group leader needs to see him or herself as a facilitator when the group meets during the week. Being a facilitator means you need to be thinking about group process, not individual performance. A facilitator looks to get the group moving and then step back. They know when to intervene because things are getting off-track and they take responsibility for guiding the group in a way that synergy is created.

Here are 5 Facets of Facilitating With Finesse…

1. Don’t teach or preach for the entire time. It’s tempting for leaders with outgoing personalities to simply duplicate a church service when they lead a small group meeting, but it’s not the path to building community. I am a preacher by trade, but when I lead a small group I do not do the majority of the speaking, rather, the group does.

For people who came up in the Lord through adult Sunday school classes this can be an unnatural paradigm shift. I still know lay leaders to this day who can’t quite shake the itch to stand up in the group and talk the whole time.

In order to be an effective facilitator you have to approach your meetings with the goal of engaging people and allowing them to contribute to the spiritual formation of the collective whole.

2. Lead With Questions. Instead of a teaching or sermon you should be preparing questions that take your group through a journey of discovery. I cover this in more detail in Small Group Discussion Questions That Go Deep.

3. Manage Personalities. Be prepared for people who are not accustomed to the format, meaning, they don’t have a lot of experience with a healthy Bible-based small group. Here’s a few tools to keep handy:

  • Stay In Control: Don’t let people take over and derail things. You are responsible for reinforcing the context of the group discussion. If you have to briefly interrupt someone, it’s okay. Say something like, “John, I love what you’re saying, but I want to give a chance for others to share too.” (Note: If you lose control of the meeting because God is doing something powerful and spontaneous, then forget about everything I just typed here)
  • Offer An Explanation Afterwards: If you have an unbeliever or new believer they may disagree or be confused about a certain principle being discussed. You can always offer to talk to them afterwards in order to keep the dialogue flowing.
  • Make An Announcement: If I know there are people present at the small group who can talk for long periods of time I will say the following, “Hey guys, we’re about to jump in to some group discussion. If you begin to share tonight, please limit your response to 2-3 minutes so everybody can have a chance to contribute.” This establishes your expectations on the front-end. Hopefully, this will help people to be more self-aware when they interact in a few moments.
  • Talk In Private: When all else fails, you might have to pull somebody aside in private and shoot straight with them in love. Specifically point out to them what they are doing that is counter-productive to the goals you have for the group meetings.

4. Be Real. As Galatians 6:7 teaches us, you will reap what you sow. As the small group leader, if you sow seeds of authenticity and transparency by demonstrating it to the group, you will reap a harvest of trust from them in return. Seriously, works every time.

5. Listen With Compassion. Make sure to pay attention to everything being shared. Listen with your eyes. Listen with your body language. Listen with your mouth closed. Most importantly, listen with your heart. Great listeners are great ministers.

In conclusion, being an effective facilitator is all about getting your focus on others. Create a disposition that is ready to receive people and encourage them in the Lord. The combination of faith-filled corporate gatherings and small group community is lethal to the kingdom of darkness.

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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 two sons.

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