Person-of-Jesus

FAQs for Group Dynamics

Click on a title to expand / contract the answer.

How do I create community?

 

  1. Listen. I noticed that my first group enjoyed the time after the lesson, when we spend 45 minutes around the table eating dessert and just chatting. One of them said how much she enjoyed that time. It struck me that many non-Christians probably don’t enjoy the rich fellowship that we have as Christians. The commercials of guys playing basketball, and then sitting around having beer, are rare for many non-Christians.
  2. Enjoy people. During our time, I just enjoy people, and tell funny stories about my life and ask them about their lives. We talk all over the map. I told them how I had struggled with one of my children for his being on the phone late at night. I did it in a lighthearted way. I want them to see me for what I am: a parent who struggles just like they do with their kids. We have a lot of laughs together.
  3. Remind people what they’re feasting on: Jesus in the word and community. When Jesus is at the center, community thrives.

 

Some of the Christians in my study are annoying.

 

  1. They use lots of Christian language. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you might pray and talk with a particular language. Christian language is not wrong, but it can get in the way of a seeker believing because to the listener it feels like he is “outside." Some examples of Christian language: “We lift up our brother in prayer,” “I accepted Jesus as my Savior.” We need to be missionaries who stop talking our language and learn to speak their language. Talk to the Christians beforehand about this problem (the 8 week video training deals with this) and if it comes up during the study, talk with the person afterwards. The problem comes up especially in prayer times. Having one sentence or one-breath prayers helps with this.
  2. They are cliquish, and isolated. It is easy for Christian participants to think that they are not professionals, so they do not engage seekers in conversation or develop friendships with them. But their care for seekers is every bit as important as the teaching. I’ve found that I need to talk to individual Christians and ask them to seek out individual seekers.

 

Sporadic attendance.

 

  1. Someone comes and drops out. This is a frequent occurrence. First, follow up by telephone with a reminder. The person may be busy. If it is clear that he or she has dropped out, try to keep the door open so the person feels comfortable with the possibility of returning.
  2. Someone forgets. Sporadic attendance is common. The best solution is to remind people just before a meeting with a phone call. If your group is especially small, and you have only seekers in the group, then a reminder call or e-mail message is critical. If it is a church group, at the second meeting pass around a sheet for the participants’ names and phone numbers so you can call them if there is a cancellation. The group member who knows this person the most should be the one to remind him or her. Be open to picking someone up once you have gotten to know him or her. Each lesson is designed as a stand-alone lesson so someone will not feel left out if he or she rejoins after being out for a few months.
  3. Someone promises to come but does not show up. This happens a lot. Do not worry about it. Jesus told the Parable of the Sower about that happening. A typical home-based study invites 18 people, 6 promise to come, 3 show up, and 1 or 2 stay for the long haul. It closely resembles the four kinds of responses that Jesus predicts in the Sower.
  4. Only one person in the group is a seeker. This is typical of many groups. Relax. Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15) about this. One sinner is more important than 99 “righteous” people.

How and when should we pray during a Person of Jesus study?

It is good to pray together as a group, yet you may not want to begin praying until after you have met a few weeks, when everyone will be more comfortable. I would suggest not praying the first time since many will be absorbing a new setting. The only reason not to pray in a study is if you know that someone is strongly irreligious and may be offended.

A natural time to pray during a study is at the end of the lesson; or, if you have a dessert, after that.

When you pray, encourage people to utter “one-breath” prayers—saying only what they can in one breath. One-sentence prayers help people to have a conversational style in prayer. Explain to your group the idea of “one-breath prayers;” perhaps joking that praying in one breath keeps people from being long-winded. Tell people that they are free not to pray as well. Remind Christians who are part of the study ahead of time to (1) give short, one-breath prayers and (2) not use religious language in their prayers (e.g., “I lift up Bob to you,” etc.).

You may want to hand out 3 by 5 cards so people can write down prayer requests or questions that they may feel uncomfortable sharing so only you will see them. Encourage them to put their name on the card and have a basket available at the exit for the cards. This is a great way to encourage people to share deeper needs and allows you to follow up with them and begin caring for them.

A time of prayer will demonstrate to non-Christians that God is a personal being with whom you may have a relationship, and that his power and blessings are available now—not just tied to some event in the distant past. Further, it will plant the seeds for their lives to be characterized by prayer.

 

One or two people answer all the questions.

  1. Be up front: “Okay, let’s hear from some others now. We haven’t heard from some of you.”
  2. Be direct but light: “Okay, Rosie, you can’t answer this one. You’ve had your maximum of 4 questions for the evening. I’d like to hear from some of the others.” Or, “Tom, your answers are right-on, but let’s hear from some other people in the group.”
  3. Ask only part of the group to answer your question:
    a.“I haven’t heard much from the right side of the room. What do you folks think about this question?”
    b.“We’ve heard a lot from the women, but let’s hear from some guys now.”
    c.“Let’s hear from some people who we’ve not heard from for this next question.” (Be prepared to wait.)
  4. Handle it privately: “Sue, you really do a nice job answering questions, but I’m concerned that Bob and Chris haven’t gotten much of a chance to say things. Do you mind waiting on some of your answers to give them a chance?”

 

The whole group is silent.

 

  1. Silence is not bad. The group may simply be thinking, so be silent and wait after you ask a question. If you answer your own question, participants will stop answering them. It is hard to be silent while you are waiting for an answer. Many people find that awkward. Try counting silently to twenty, and then if there is still no answer, try re-wording the question.
  2. Handle chronic silence by dividing the group into sub-groups of three. Give each group the same question to work on and let them discuss it for a few minutes. Then reconvene the entire group and have one person from each sub-group report their conclusions. This works like a charm. It always injects energy into the group and gets people interacting. Everyone in a group of three is compelled to talk.

 

Some people in the group are always quiet.

 

  1. Just let them be quiet. Some people are just naturally quiet. (The Bible calls that wisdom!) It is important that they feel safe in the group and not be pressured to talk.
  2. Some are quiet because they do not want to be embarrassed by giving a wrong answer. They may be used to school experiences when questions were often deliberately difficult. Since the questions in our manuals are written in a way that does not require Bible knowledge, you can encourage your group by saying things like, “I’m not hunting for a deep answer here. Just tell me what comes to your mind.”
  3. Encourage them to open up with subtle invitations: “Okay, let’s hear from some others now.”
  4. Occasionally ask them questions directly: “Bob, I’ve not heard from you tonight. What are some of your thoughts on this question?” Be careful about putting people on the spot, however. Do this only if you know the person and sense that he or she would not mind.

 

The question goes flat; no one answers it.

 

  1. Give a hint. (Hints are often listed in the lesson.)
  2. Make the question easier by narrowing down where to look for an answer. For example, if it’s a Bible question, give the verse that has the answer.
  3. Rephrase the question.

 

Someone gives a wrong answer.

 

  1. Most of the questions are geared for either multiple answers or relatively obvious answers, so this should not happen often. But there are questions that have only one answer.
  2. Point the person back to the text: “Where do you see that in the text?”
  3. Point the whole group back to the text without putting the particular person who gave the wrong answer on the spot: “Let’s stick to the text with our answers.”
  4. Disagree directly: “I don’t think so because….”
  5. Disagree more gently: “It’s possible, but I’ve not heard that before.”

 

Answers from participants are vague and ‘floaty’ -- hard to work with

 

  1. “That’s possible, but what does the text say?”
  2. “Where do you see that in the text?”
  3. “That’s an interesting observation. What you say is quite true.” Then restate your initial question and get the group to focus on the passage. “Look at the story we’ve just read; how do you see Jesus....”

This is more common in the beginning of the study. People are not used to paying close attention to the text. Until they become accustomed to interpretation, a little guidance can encourage them:

 

Are you in a group with poor readers or non-readers?

 

This is more common in a prison setting or with people for whom English is a second language.

The simplest aid is to write the text out on the flip chart ahead of time and tape it to the wall. Read it slowly several times, pointing to the words as you read, so they can hear it and pick up most of the words.

Someone leads the group off subject.

 

  1. Let him or her go on the tangent, and then go back to your question. If the person persists, then suggest that you talk about it after the study.
  2. Be sensitive to the subject and the person raising the issue. If it appears to be just a trivial or purely intellectual subject, then go back to your lesson plan. But if it appears to be connected with a heart issue or something the person is really struggling with, then take the time to answer it or ask others in the group what they think.

 

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