When an Alpha guest asks a question* during small group time, we want to ensure that other guests have an opportunity to share their perspective and viewpoints, which is part of a healthy discussion. If Alpha leaders give their opinion, there will be no conversation, as this will be viewed as “the final answer”. Here are conversation skills and an exercise to help you facilitate your small group and respond to those ‘big’ theological or philosophical questions.
How? Attend to the person:
• Establish contact by looking at the person when they talk.
• Maintain a natural relaxed posture that indicates your interest.
• Use natural gestures that communicate your intended messages.
• Use verbal statements that relate to the other person’s statements.
• As much as possible, focus all your attention on the person speaking.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to help you truly hear what someone is saying.
Sample Question from Guest: “I’ve never really understood the whole idea of ‘sin.’ It seems like such an outdated concept. What is ‘sin’ anyway? Do we sort of fall into it at some point in our lives? Because someone was telling me once that even babies are born with sin! I don’t think that’s right at all, is it?”
- used when there is confusion or uncertainty about what was said
- used to make sure you understand what was said
- used to “reflect back” to the speaker what you heard
Sample response: “Are you wondering, Bill, if sin is simply an old, medieval idea, or if it’s still something real today—is that what you’re asking?”
- used to solicit further comments from the speaker or group
- offers encouragement and invitation to say more
- directed to the speaker or to the entire group
Sample response: “That’s very interesting, Bill. Can you tell us more about what you mean?” OR “Can you tell us more about what that person said to you about ‘babies being born with sin?"
- used to “redirect” the discussion to include more of the group
- used to move the focus of discussion away from just one person
- used to “refocus” the discussion back to the main point
Sample response: (to rest of group) “Bill is really wrestling with the whole idea as to whether sin is real and how we experience sin. Has anybody else been thinking about this… or wondering about the idea of sin?” OR “Thanks for your question, Bill. I’m wondering if some of the rest of you have been wondering about this?”
Reflective / Feeling Questions or Statements
- used with emotional responses, questions, or statements
- convey concern, acceptance, empathy, interest
- affirm and legitimise what was expressed
Sample response: “Thanks for sharing your thought, Bill. I can tell that this has been really weighing on you.”