Effective group discussions are most likely to take place when all the members feel they are important to the group. There are many factors that contribute to a sense of importance, but let's mention two here.
- Create an atmosphere in which people feel safe about sharing. Two factors are important here. First, be careful not to “shoot someone down” for their opinion, even if that opinion is theologically not correct. Always thank the person for sharing, first, then try to guide the situation to a presentation of alternate views. For example, you might say, “Many Christians feel exactly as Mary has expressed. What is another way other Christians approach this topic?” Second, leave the discussion in the classroom. Using what someone said in your class in a way that embarrasses them elsewhere is a perfect way to stop future discussion.
- Take time at the beginning of class for people to share about their week, and give updates and prayer requests as desired. Allow new people a chance to introduce themselves. Making sure everyone gets a chance to be heard in the little things will build the atmosphere necessary for all to share about the topic(s) you really want to discuss.
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