You have a plan for your meeting, an agenda, which at some point includes discussing the night’s study topic.
Discussion is moving along nicely, but then… one comment leads to the next … none of which are related to the topic at hand … and suddenly the train has gone off the tracks. It’s the dreaded “off-topic” tangent that derails the discussion and sends it off into left field. It happens to in all groups to all leaders at times.
How do you deal with this scenario as a Grow Together group leader?
Here are some tips that will help get the train back on the tracks:
Act quickly – be bold (but not rude), do not let the off-topic discussion continue on and on…
Go directly to one of the tactics below…
- Redirect back to the topic – ex. “That’s interesting, but it’s not what we’re focusing on here, let’s get back to the real question we’re discussing right now is …”
- Ask a direct question – ex. “Great, Sandra, but what do you think about [insert real topic here]…”
- Private conversation – if this happens regularly with a specific person, have a private conversation with him/her about it, being sure to provide gentle reassurance of the value of their contribution but importance of staying on track
There are other methods of dealing with this, but one of the best ways to avoid this problem is to set and communicate guidelines and expectations for discussion ahead of time with the entire group. If this continues to be an issue, review those guidelines/expectations for discussion time with the group. Reviewing this periodically will automatically lessen or eliminate this problem during your study time discussions!
Lastly, please keep in mind that if a person’s “off-topic” discussion is about a personal problem or deep concern or struggle someone is dealing with, that is something different from what we’re talking about here (and a topic for another day).
Group Life Deacon