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Discussion Group Guidelines
Intro: Welcome to the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast. I’m Cyndee Ownbey, your host and women’s ministry mentor. I’m the founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox and the author of Rethinking Women’s Ministry. The Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast is a podcast for women’s ministry leaders and team members of all stages (from new to seasoned) serving in their local church community. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! In addition to discussing the nuts and bolts of women’s ministry, I’ll be asking seasoned women’s ministry leaders to share their best tips and the lessons they’ve learned. Together we’ll learn to build a flourishing, Christ-focused women’s ministry.
We’re continuing our series on discipleship today with a focus on discussion group guidelines.
Have you ever been in a group discussion that’s gotten seriously off track? Maybe a group member brought up the last election or someone made a bold statement about their feelings on public schooling vs homeschooling. Or maybe you’ve had a group member share a resource that immediately set off a red flag alert.
While we can’t prevent every off-topic or divisive comment, putting into place discussion group guidelines will minimize these issues.
I recommend creating these guidelines before your first group meeting.
Some Bible study groups host an intro meeting where women select the study they’ll participate in or it may be more of a food and fellowship event. You meet your group leader and other group members for the first time and get to know each other before diving into your study. It can be very helpful for your Bible Study or Discipleship Coordinator to share key information with the entire group. Those group guidelines can be shared by her at that initial gathering.
Before I share a list of guidelines you may want to include, we need to talk about the purpose of discussion groups.
Purpose influences policy.
I recommend printing your purpose at the top of your Discussion Group Guidelines – whether you distribute it electronically or in a printed format. I recommend doing both – it removes the excuse of not having received a copy.
This is exactly what I share in the Discussion Group Guideline sample in the Bible Study Facilitator Training course.
Your discussion group time is where you’ll have the opportunity each week to share what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you during your study time. It’s a time for giving and receiving encouragement from other believers. It’s a safe place to seek answers in God’s Word.
Before I read you the list, I want to make sure you didn’t miss the three-fold purpose.
- Sharing what the Holy Spirit revealed during your study time.
- Giving and receiving encouragement
- Seeking answers in God’s Word
Do you hear how that purpose statement sets up guardrails for your discussion time?
When things go off the rails, you can point back to your purpose statement or any of the following 9 guidelines.
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Here are the 9 discussion group guidelines I recommend.
(As always, feel free to tweak them as needed for your specific church and your specific group.)
To get the most out of your time in this study:
- Be on time.
- Come prepared to learn and to share.
- Be a good listener. Be patient and give others time to process and respond.
- Be welcoming and encouraging to the other members in your group.
- Respect different perspectives and opinions. Your group members likely come from many different churches and backgrounds, but we are all sisters in Christ. Please refrain from discussing topics (like politics) or other controversial issues that divide us.
- Pray for and keep confidential the prayer requests shared in your group.
- Be willing to be transparent—with struggles in life and with the study. While at the same time, protect yourself and others by not over-sharing and by limiting details.
- Stay on topic. Keep your discussion focused on the passage being studied. Your facilitator is happy to answer other questions you may have outside of class.
- Keep the focus on God and His Word by not bringing in outside material. Use scripture or commentaries in your study time and discussion—not books, authors, or Pastors to support your answers. The goal is to learn more about God and learn to hear Him speak to you through the Bible.
Feel free to copy and paste the discussion group guidelines above, or tweak them to best meet your needs.
If your group struggles to follow the guidelines you’ve set forth, you may need to gently remind them. You could do so in your weekly email or before you begin your discussion.
If you have one member that regularly disrupts your discussion, please talk with them one-on-one to try to resolve the situation.
You may have a group member that needs a little extra help. If that’s the case, I’d encourage you to check out my Bible Study Facilitator Training. I address many common issues group leaders encounter with some advice on how to lovingly solve them.
Setting a few ground rules for your group time will help your discussions to stay focused on God and His Word.
Romans 15:5-6 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
That’s my prayer for you, that your groups would have a Christ-like attitude towards one another so God may be glorified.
Today’s Toolbox Task:
- Create a list of Discussion Group Guidelines if you need them.
- Revise your list if necessary.
May your discussions be encouraging and beneficial to all in attendance.
You may also want to read:
Great Small Group Leaders and Bible Study Facilitators
Everything a Bible Study Leader Needs to Know
Bible Study Facilitator Course
Dividing Women into Groups
Creating a Schedule for Discipleship, Small Group, and Bible Study Meetings
Selecting Discipleship, Mentoring, and Bible Study Materials