By Paula Marolewski
Discussion is vital to Bible studies, small groups, and Sunday
school classes. It keeps people attentive and involved, adds insights
and wisdom, and helps people turn head knowledge into heart knowledge.
So why does discussion sometimes falter or fail? Why does it sometimes
result in more problems than solutions? Here are five of the biggest
reasons discussion can take a nosedive:
1. Pooled ignorance. People have to have a reasonable understanding
about the topic at hand in order for discussion to flourish. That
is why teaching and discussion have to work hand in hand – you
shouldn’t have one without the other. Take the time to teach
the truth of the Word of God, then open up the floor for discussion
about what you have learned. Failure to teach the truth results
in unfounded opinions, random stories, and pooled ignorance … and
that is not effective discussion!
2. Random tangents. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing
that if people are talking, good discussion is happening. But an
effective Bible study or Sunday School class is goal-oriented:
in each class, a specific truth, principle, or application is the
focus of attention. Therefore, since random tangents and directionless
talk don’t further that goal, they are a waste of time and
are impeding the progress and purpose of the class. And remember:
a person can be saying something good and true, but if it is not
on topic, it has no place in the discussion time … it is
still a tangent.
3. Uncorrected error. Sometimes, people say something that is
untrue, incorrect, or invalid. Our postmodern society says that
everyone is entitled to their opinion or interpretation – but
God doesn’t. Christianity teaches absolute truth, and the
apostles consistently demonstrated their willingness and responsibility
to correct error wherever it appeared. It is the leader’s
responsibility to lovingly correct error during discussion in order
to communicate and uphold the truth.
4. Power struggle. Unfortunately, some people view times of discussion
as opportunities to wrestle the leadership of the class away from
the teacher. This creates an ugly atmosphere in the group and derails
the purpose the class is trying to achieve.
5. Gripe sessions. Depending on the topic at hand, discussion
periods can easily turn into gripe sessions. Classes that focus
on relationship issues are especially prone to this snare. In order
for discussion to be productive, certain rules need to be established,
and one of them is that complaining does not equal contributing.
Leaders have to watch constantly for these five discussion-killers.
Fortunately, they are all under his or her control. It is the leader’s
responsibility to communicate good information so that discussion
does not become a time of pooled ignorance. It is the teacher who
can take a firm hand to control tangents, correct error, assert
appropriate authority, and quell complainers.
With that in mind, be confident that discussion can always be
what it is designed to be: a source of wisdom and insight, an opportunity
for sharing and accountability, and a wellspring of friendship
and love in the house of God.
© 2008 Paula Marolewski
Article Source: http://www.sinkyourroots.com
About the Author:
Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible
studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School
classes at Sink Your Roots. Studies
include such topics as Debunking
the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little
thoughts that grow big results.”