A) Make sure others read the verses and quotes…not you. You already talk enough. Quite often, the person reading will be prompted to make comments too.
B) Be ready to share your own story or two upon some quote or another – people love personal experiences; it opens them up. People will mirror you; if you are forthcoming, they will be forthcoming.
C) Pass out reading assignments ahead of time – a week if you can. “Would you please share your thoughts on this verse and what comes up for you? Feel free to share any stories from your own life on this topic.” That ups the quality of content and sows the seeds of great discussion. Use people who don’t speak up a lot – that’s gold.
D) Respond to a class contributor like they are your best friend and you’re having a conversation in the foyer; give them some conversational feedback.
E) Validate every attempt to be involved in the conversation. Parrot back their idea or tell them what you liked about their comment. I will often say, “I loved that word you used…introspection; I’ve felt a lot of introspection when preparing this lesson.” Say their name. Refer back to an earlier comment and mention who made it. The validation you extend is engaging and memorable. Remember, people have different levels of understanding and various combinations of “line upon line.” Be conversational and try to make the best of every comment. Don’t play “guess what I’m thinking.” or ‘just one right answer.” If there is a flawed understanding, be very gentle and diplomatic. “Well, I can understand why you might view it that way…let me share an experience (or a scripture)
New tip: I see this happen repeatedly! Do not ever be concerned or annoyed by going “out of order.” For example, if someone makes a comment that covers material later in your lesson and the discussion naturally swings there – roll with it and work the quote or verse in. Don’t invalidate and shut that person’s comment down by stating that it’s for “later.” (Don’t be like, “why did you bring that up now – that messes up my lesson.”) If you want people to volunteer…be a safe person to contribute to. Turn the detour into a success for everyone.
F) Difficult people with antagonistic questions – Don’t be scared of it; turn it into a golden opportunity for more participation. People love to chime in when it gets a little heated anyway. You can say, “Let’s open this up to the group. Does anyone have a response or viewpoint on that? This diffuses the focus off of you. When invited and validated, you’ll usually find people willing to jump in on something like this.
If it is contentious, kindly invite that person to speak with you afterward, but you’d like to get back to the lesson…or tell them you’ll need to research that one and get back to them.
G) No videos. They tend to produce a passive group – if you feel you must share a video, restrict it to the beginning of the lesson.
Summary: How much should I prepare?
Out of 50 minutes, you’ll typically get about 35-40 for the lesson by the time opening/closing exercises, announcements, prayers, and hymns are done. Every quote you have someone read, and then ask questions or some other discussion starter/activity – by the time you get a few comments, you’ll quickly use up 5 minutes. If the discussion opens up at all or someone tells a story or relates an experience, or asks a question – you’ll hit 10 minutes per quote without trying to. Don’t be surprised if you only end up getting through 2-3 quotes…that’s great. This means some real conversation and contemplation are taking place.
You are ready! I’m so excited for you as you prepare to bring a wonderful experience to your group. Blessings to you always.