Thursday night was slightly rainy and generally quiet. It was one of those “chill” days that I absolutely liked after a long day of work.

The clock ticked, and soon, the small room where I was in was filled by about ten people with different personalities, representing different professions and varying needs. We call ourselves, “Life on Life Alabang”.  This happy bunch is one of the Growth Groups I have the privilege of leading and facilitating.

We did our usual Thursday study and sharing time, and ended with a very good note… But something was different during this particular discussion. Something kept me thinking after that gathering.

As I was driving home, I realized that it was worthy to process it further, and glean what I can from what transpired that night. So here I am writing to you, and sharing what I believe are essential keys that unlock an awesome and powerful small group discussion. (Oh, I pray this helps!)

As you read along, I hope you’d recognize that these practices may not only be applicable in the context of a church, but for any small group that gathers for a common purpose — whether it is a meeting of professionals, a group of friends hanging out, or a family that’s having a meal together on a Sunday night.

At the same time, I would like to highlight that a “small group” (in my perspective and for my purpose in this particular series of posts) is not a sermon or a lecture/didactic, and ideally, should not exceed 15 people.  8-10 people is actually a better number. Less is even way better.

So let’s give it a try then. What must we do to cultivate a vibrant small group discussion?

First of the five keys is this: Allocate an appropriate amount of time and find a conducive location for your gathering.

Some say that another way to spell out love is T-I-M-E. I agree. If you truly want to have a good talk, I am convinced that we need to intentionally make time for it.

In my case, I allot about 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours in the gatherings I lead in order to make sure that most, if not all, are able to share. My principle is this: I allot time that is not short enough to be hurried, and not too long that it gets to be a drag. For a somewhat-an-introvert like me (believe it or not!), my magic numbers are 3 and 4. Meaning, I can only stay for until 3-4 hours of being in a group… after that, I feel spent, I get bored or I simply just want to do something else. Hitting the 3+ hour mark becomes counter-productive for me.

About venues, while coffee shops are nice and trendy (plus, I love coffee!), it is good to have a nice and quiet meeting place that can give you a conducive environment for shared learning. (Yes, we also gather to learn from one there!)

Find an appropriate, aptly-lighted, well-ventilated place with minimal distractions. If you are a student, you don’t need to pay a lot for this. It just takes creativity and intentionality. Case in point, I just ask my Growth Group to bring some snacks for sharing. As a leader/facilitator, I use this as an opportunity for the group to share the load with me. I get to shell out less cash, plus everyone gets to have a contribution. There is a sense of “together-ness” that is promoted.

Again, this particular suggestion may vary based on the nature, purpose and size of the group you have. What you just need to understand out of this are the principles behind the specifics. Sure, you can meet to a coffee shop or a restaurant, etc. But you go back to this key factor: you need to allot time and you need a good place.

This is a key first step, which I’d say is often neglected. However, if you get this to be a habit, you’d reap the benefits of it!

Let me direct the focus on you now, what else do you think are good practices or principles that contribute to a nice, vibrant discussion? Your comments would be pretty much appreciated as I want to learn from you too.