This is a time of gathering where participants are welcomed, a prayer for the group and its discussion is offered, and the session topic and process is introduced.
For the first session there needs to be a time of introductions, group building and norm setting as follows:
Does everybody know everyone else? If not, you will need to take some time for basic introductions.
People need time to get to know each other a bit, and hear why they chose to participate in this study. You can do this by asking a question like:
Why did you choose to attend this study?
What one thing are you hoping to learn from this study?
The facilitator/discussion leader offers a prayer for the group and its discussion asking for God’s presence in the participants’ thoughts, words and in their listening. If the group doesn’t know each other well, it is more comfortable to pray together after introductions and group building.
Setting group norms: (First session activity)
It will be important to create a comfortable and safe space for the group’s conversation. In setting norms, you are asking participants to name what they think they will need from others in order to feel able to fully participate in the discussions.
In preparation for the first session, choose a model of group norms from the resource list provided.
- Post the list on flip chart paper and introduce the norms to the participants.
- Ask if they have any questions, additions or amendments to offer in order to make this list work for them. Work with the group to get their agreement to make any changes necessary to the list.
- Once the norms are set, ask the group to agree that these will be the guidelines for their discussion. Make sure that you have the agreement of all to abide by the norms and that you, as their facilitator, or any member of the group can remind people of their agreement to follow the norms should it become necessary.
- Take a moment at the opening of all sessions in your study programme to review these norms before beginning any discussion.
This is the time for content. This resource provides a series of topic-based discussion components from which to choose. Each component includes an introduction to the session and identifies readings and questions for discussion.
You might want to ask participants to prepare for their discussions by doing some of the reading at home prior to the session. Other readings are easily done during the group time.
When facilitating discussion, it is helpful to ask the group to discuss some of the questions in pairs before sharing with the whole group. This works well when the question is of a particularly sensitive nature, or when it asks people to share their own stories.
This is the opportunity to wrap up the session and help people make the transition out of the group and its discussion. Take time for prayer, reflection and the identification of what’s been learned, or what was of value to people in the session.
- Thank participants for their contributions to the discussion.
- Summarize the discussion briefly. Name the highlights. Don’t try to draw things to a tidy conclusion or consensus if one is not present. Rather, name those things that people seemed to agree on and where they differed. In your summary affirm what you can. For example:
— The openness and honestly of people’s contributions
— The respectfulness of the listening and discussion
— The willingness of the group to share their thoughts and experiences
— The care and concern shown in their listening
In your summary name the struggles. If the discussion, in all or in part, was challenging acknowledge that it was. Don’t pretend it was easy and don’t ignore that it was difficult.
- Evaluate the session briefly. Ask participants to review the session by doing one of the following:
— Invite each participant to share one thing they found easiest about the discussion and one thing that challenged them.
— Invite people to share what went well; what was disappointing; and what they would like to do differently next time.
— Ask people to share one thing they learned during this session
— Invite participants to share one thing that surprised them during the session.
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