"Open Discussions" VS "Around the Room" Discussions

By Pastor John Fichtner
I am a HUGE Fan of “Around the Room” Discussions. I use them in every meeting of our Pastors. I personally think that “Open” discussions are a very low “Grade School” level excellence in leadership while “Around the Room” discussions are one a very high “College” level of excellence in leadership. Here are my reasons.

"Around the Room" Discussions:

1.  Give everybody a chance to share.
The quietest people often have the most amazing insights. If a person truly does not want to share it is very easy for a gracious leader to offer them an opportunity to pass. We are called to be make disciples. One of the deepest needs in every Christian’s life is to have some type of study, where friends will ask you the huge question: “What was the Lord saying to you in this week’s study?”
2.  Keeps the discussion going.

It avoids all of those awkward moments of silence.
3.  Allows for plenty of “Open” Discussion.
It would be normal for the leader to always give responsive encouragement to each person’s comments. However, the ALERT leader would also sense times that someone’s comments may stir others to jump in. Running “Rabbit Trails” is actually easier in this environment. When the “Rabbit Trail” goes too far off course or winds down the leader simply calls on the next person in the circle for “Their Turn” which guides the whole group back to the original subject.
4.  Keeps long-winded people restrained.
In meetings where the entire meeting is an “Open Discussion” chatty people often keep talking because they feel an obligation to fill the “Dead Air”. In “Around the Room” discussions there is a decorum that restrains the long winded person. Everybody feels obligated to make sure that everyone else has a chance to share.

Also, some times a long winded person gets “Stuck” and they DON’T KNOW HOW to summarize their thoughts. In situations like this our recommendation is that the small group leader INTERRUPT the long winded person using this format:
1.  “Excuse me just a moment Bob. I would like to highlight something you said that I really liked.”
2.  Give a praise comment on some point this person made.
3.  Immediately after you make your comment, call on the next person by name and say “OK, Jimmy it’s your turn. What was your favorite verse in this chapter?”

5.  Help everyone be better Listeners.
Almost everyone likes to share but very few people like to “Fight” for a chance to share. When people KNOW with Certainty that they are going to get a chance to share, they are much more RELAXED and listen more deeply to what others are saying. The bottom line is that they are more eager to come to Bible Study.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. - I Cor. 14:33

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. - I Cor. 14:40