How to facilitate meaningful small group discussions.

Every small group leader wants to lead a great group discussion and every small group leader has experienced the discussion that didn’t go so well!  So, how do you lead or facilitate a meaningful discussion?

Before getting into the specifics, here are two basic ‘rules of thumb’ to keep in mind…

*think facilitate not lead – its a discussion not a lecture

*the larger the group, the more difficult the discussion, or, the smaller the group the better the discussion.

Lets compare leading a meaningful discussion to a airplane flight!  There is the pre-flight, take-off, climbing to altitude, cruising speed, final descent, and landing the plane.


During pre-flight a lot is happening but most of it is related to ‘preparation’. To the small group leader ‘preparing a plan’ is key to a meaningful discussion. How does a small group leader prepare a plan?    Pray, study, and pray…in that order!


The take off can be the most exciting and the most nerve wracking few minutes at the same time.  For the small group leader a good start sets the pace for the rest of the time. A good start involves using a good ‘ice-breaker’.  The goal is to loosen-em up by getting them laughing and talking.

Climbing, Cruising, and the Descent

The climb, cruising, and descent parts of the flight are all about the ‘lesson’. The lesson has an intro, body, and conclusion. The intro is about connecting to their heart with motivation, the body is about connecting to the head with information, and the conclusion is about connecting to their hands with application.

*Motivate them with some praise, scripture, and worship. (Read a Psalm and ask for ‘popcorn praises’ then open with prayer)

*Inform them with a Bible discussion not a bible study.  Involve them in the discussion by asking great questions.  Ask ‘why’ and ‘how’, use ‘explain’, ‘discuss’, and ‘share’, say ‘tell us about’ instead of ‘what’ or ‘yes/no’ kinds of questions. If you’re using a lesson guide with questions, look for segways in the conversation to ‘facilitate’ from one point to the next and DO NOT just read the questions one after the other!

*Apply the lesson to them by helping them know what to do with it. Help them define their “I will”.  “Because of the lesson, this week, I will ________________!”


Everybody likes a smooth landing.  End your group with varied prayer experiences.  For example: 1) share needs and then ask who will pray for John’s request, and then ask who will pray for Sarah’s request, etc., then have them pray outloud in the same order then you close, 2) pass out cards and have everyone write down their requests (saves time in a large group), put them in a hat or basket then have each draw a card and that’s their prayer focus for the week, 3) subdivide the group by men and women for prayer, 4) ask for one volunteer to pray to close (could be a clue to a potential leader).  There is no shortage to ideas of how to use varied prayer experiences for a smooth end to your great group discussion-be creative!

Each of these parts of the small group discussion are skills that take time to develop but with intentionality, patience, and perseverance.  You can become a facilitator of great discussions that will make them want to come back!!

Share your ideas of something I left out or, share your best practice to facilitate a great group discussion?

…see what I did there? 😉



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: