Published: The Stories Behind The Stories

The surface level small talk and the triviality of much of life, thanks to social media and the busyness of life, makes it hard to take time and listen to others. Recently I’ve been pondering this, particularly after observing the way people around me use social media and their devices. My ponderings made it into an article, which was then published on TGCA.

“Often it takes something significant to disrupt our regular practices and habits. The other week I had two funerals to attend. If there is ever something that will disrupt us, get us looking up and out from ourselves, then memorial services for the dead are the way to do it. For there in front of us is the reality of life and death. There before us is the end. And reflecting on the end can jolt us back into what really is reality.

Our social media stories give us a picture of a life in front of us. And however momentary this picture is, it depicts a false reality. For behind that picture is a person, and in that person is a heart, and in that heart is the desire of things greater than can be captured by a phone.”

You can read the whole thing here.

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You can read more of my recent publications here.

10 Tips For Leading Discussion Groups

I don’t particularly like leading youth leader meetings where all we do is plan the coming term. To me, there needs to be something of substance in the meeting, something that can help us get better at what we do. At our most recent meeting I collected some thoughts around what makes for facilitating a good discussion group. Here are the 10 tips I came up with, ‘geniusly’ framed as an acrostic poem.

10 Tips For Leading Discussion Groups

1. Develop Rapport

Quickly introduce yourself and gather everyone in. The best way to get people comfortable is asking them how they are, what they thought of the talk in general, and sharing something you found useful.

2. Intentionally Listen

You’re not there to simply tell others in the group your wisdom, you’re there to hear them share. When someone is speaking listen to what they’re saying and ask them follow up questions.

3. Show Jesus

Our topics and points in our talks should be centred on Jesus. Therefore, it would make sense for our discussion time to also include pointing to Jesus. This could be through mentioning another related Bible passage, or reflecting on how knowing Jesus has impacted you.

4. Comfortable Silences

We’re working with teenagers. There’s going to be awkward silences. Get comfortable with them. But, during this time always be thinking about another way you could ask the question or ask someone specifically in the group to share.

5. Understand It’s A Growth Process

Our discussion groups are a place, we hope, where people will learn and grow. But, realise it won’t all happen on one night. The ongoing nature of these groups, and the culture we foster in them, helps facilitate growth and maturity in life and faith.

6. Share Your Stories And Heart

Those in your group are wanting to know your perspective or your experience. As leaders we have a great opportunity to share something of ourselves. If you can think of an example of how the topic for discussion is something you’ve wrestled with before then share it.

7. Simple Questions

Ask simple and clear questions. Avoid confusing questions that are long and have different aspects to them.

8. Involve Everyone

Notice who is and isn’t talking. When asking a question sometimes it is good to ask someone specifically to share.

9. Opportunity To Challenge

We have an opportunity to challenge the thinking and behaviours of those in our groups. Don’t shy away from the challenging question. Even the simple question ‘Why?’ can do the trick.

10. No Wrong Answers

People should feel comfortable enough to share without being ridiculed or laughed at. Through your facilitation those in the group can sense whether it is safe for them to share. When someone does share we want to affirm them and thank them for sharing, even if we believe what they have said isn’t quite right.

Would you add anything? (But realise, that if you do add anything you’ll ruin a beautifully constructed acrostic!)