How does our housegroup work? (@drbattytowers)

Leading a group

Group of friends isolated

In the last post I talked about how I prepared for a housegroup discussion and gave a couple of general observations. And I admitted to the four principles I try to work by, but normally end up getting at least one of these wrong in each meeting. So what are they?

The number one principle is that the discussion isn’t for you. It’s about getting other people to articulate their ideas – not necessarily out loud – and think through for themselves. So it’s tempting to try to go equipped with all the answers and to air your own opinion, and I know I fall into this trap sometimes (particularly if we’re talking about a subject that is close to my heart). I do usually have a vague idea of what my answer might be to a question, or where I think roughly a ‘Christian’ perspective might be. But no more that.

Sometimes I’m deflecting a question back and wondering ‘ought I to know the answer?’ or ‘what would the vicar think?’ and again I fall into the trap of not listening to what people are saying, because I’m too busy on my internal monologue.

So the second principle is to listen, and listen a bit more.

Don’t be afraid of silence. Count to at least five before asking another question or clarifying. It feels awkward at first – the antithesis of the lively conversation we anticipate – but if you don’t give people space you run the risk of shutting down a train of thought that might take a few seconds to turn into speech, and missing an important insight. In addition, if there’s someone new, or shy, who wants to wait until they’re sure no-one else is going to speak, silence gives them a chance to contribute. (If people start snoring, you’ve maybe left it too long).

Third principle

Check out what other people do think. I will ask directly of someone that’s not spoken, to draw them in (easier in very small group than a large one – don’t want to put people on the spot)

Don’t assume everyone’s read, or read and understood what you’re meant to be discussing. Even if there are ‘set questions’ in a chapter I tend to start by asking if there is anything specific that needs to be clarified – or was difficult to deal with. That might be all that is needed for the evening – discussing what wasn’t understood! And we might not deal with the questions straight away, but park them, and make sure they’re dealt with at some point during  the session.

Fourth principle

This probably goes without saying – but pray… pray… and maybe pray a bit more. I pray as I prepare, and I pray for the members of the group in the weeks between meetings. We open in prayer, and we close in prayer.

About Sara Batts

Sara completed her PhD research in 2013 examining how English churches are embracing – or ignoring – the rise of social media. Based in Colchester, Sara has a day job in London as a legal information professional so she’s well placed to understand how best to find and provide information online. Blogs, twitter feeds and other social media are second nature and she’s been using the internet for longer than she cares to remember