Ever been to a Bible study where you watch a video or listen to a speaker talk and then break into small groups and your facilitator presents a second message? It can be a heady thing to speak and have a group listening to what you share. But is that really what’s needed for life change to occur?
We live in a society that is information rich. At any moment of the day you can pull up a sermon online or read a book or listen to a radio broadcast. We’ve never had more access to the Word being taught – and struggled as much to live it out.
Consider what the Scriptures say:
“But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers.” Matthew 23:8
“Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor – the Christ.” Matthew 23:10
“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27
Once someone is a believer their greatest need usually isn’t for advice, but for someone to come along and help them learn how to listen to what the Lord is teaching them and help them process what they are hearing so they know how to respond and to encourage them to respond by living out what He is laying on their hearts. There are three key ways you can do this:
Until the day we die we are all very much in process, in need of growing and becoming more like Jesus. As you share your weaknesses, where you struggle, and what helps you, there is a tremendous opportunity for people to learn how to process and apply as they see you doing this. The quote, “More is caught than taught” is so true! Whenever I’m asked to speak at a women’s retreat or to a group I find it so helpful to keep this in mind. My goal isn’t to teach but to share my journey, yes, even the ugly parts when it will be of help for them to hear, and what’s been helping me.
2. Listening & Asking Questions, Then Listening More
In James 1:19 we are instructed, “Everyone should be quick to listen…” Is this ever vitally important to remember when you are facilitating a group discussion. There is nothing like listening to someone share their heart or their thoughts to make them feel loved and cared for. This creates a wonderful environment where growth can happen.
And is the second part of that verse, “slow to speak…” ever key for facilitators to remember. When I’m speaking I’m in control. So if I’m scared it’s so easy for that to be my default. Even if someone in the group asks a question, well, the natural response is to answer right away. But what a difference it can make if you first ask if anyone else in the group would like to respond. Creating a learning community, where you are all sharing your journeys together is so much more powerful and life changing than a quick correct answer being given. You want to be able to engage with each other as well as the material. Can that ever do wonders to help people grow as this takes place.
Now it can really help to identify whether the women in your group are internal or external processors. Those who process externally will usually be the first to share and sometimes the internal processors can get left out, so it takes extra intention to listen to them. I’ve found it can be so helpful to provide an opportunity for them to first process on their own and then listen and ask questions.
For example, when I’m facilitating a group discussion after a speaker has shared, I will often start our time encouraging them to first write down on a notecard what stood out to them in the message or draw a quick picture representing this. Even extroverts benefit from this opportunity to collect their thoughts (because writing is also a form of external processing) so when they share it tends to be more focused. But this is so key to being able to “listen” to internal processors. I can’t tell you how many times this makes it possible to listen to what’s going on inside them. Women who ordinarily would never share in a group will often open up when the group is conducted this way.
And it really is amazing how much more people are helped when we listen and ask questions, than when we just give answers!
3. Introducing different ways to process
As mentioned above, this can be as simple as having your group draw a picture or write a word or short paragraph that summarizes the key thing that stood out to them either from the message they just heard or from their Bible study that week. Or if you’re reading the scriptures together and then discussing, it can be giving colored pencils and having them underline what stands out to them or circle key words. Or it can be as involved as having the group art journal a page reflecting what they learned and then sharing it afterwards with the group (more information on this and examples are available at http://www.restfulheart.wordpress.com)
All of these means help people focus in on the key thing that stood out to them, narrowing down what they heard so they can more easily come up with an application. That really is where the rubber meets the road. It can be so powerful when people have time to process together for helping them come up with an application and then for the group to provide an opportunity for accountability – it doesn’t even have to be like drill sergeants checking up on you ~ just knowing someone is going to ask “how did it go this week?” or “What did you experience as you sought to live out what you learned last week?” can be a powerful motivator for actually doing what’s on your heart to do.
Remember the difference between the wise and foolish builder isn’t a matter of hearing the Word! The difference is what they do in response to it. And it wasn’t that the wise builder got more gold stars – no! By responding to what he heard, by actively seeking to do it, to live it out, he was laying a solid foundation for when the storms of life came. And note it’s not “If” they come but “when!”
Yes, there can be times when it is appropriate to give advice, but I like to filter that through Ephesians 4:29 speaking “only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Be sure to ask yourself – is this really helping them become wise? Helping them process what they’ve already heard and move towards application? Or am I just providing opportunity for them to “hear” more?
Whether you’re meeting one on one with someone or facilitating a group it can be so wise to keep asking yourself how much time am I talking? And what is happening as a result?
Best part of this? Does it ever take the pressure off you as a facilitator, discipler or mentor! You don’t have to have all the answers! And since no one does (according to I Corinthians 13:12 in this life we only know in part) what a relief! All you have to do is join in with what Jesus is doing, helping them learn to listen to him – not just hear him, but respond to him and yield to him as He guides them. And in the process, instead of remaining babes dependent on you they are learning how to walk with him and abide with him for life!