People who are good listeners may also become good facilitators, able to lead others in discussion in small groups. Good facilitation is not easy. The facilitator’s work is to build the right atmosphere, to help each individual to participate and to work together. Good facilitation is much more about listening than talking.

Good facilitators require many skills. They need to be relaxed and good at building relationships. Humour can often help to create a good atmosphere that helps people share their feelings and views. It is important that facilitators are aware of the different needs within the group, encouraging those who lack confidence to speak, and dealing tactfully with people who talk too much or whose views are unhelpful. They should treat everyone equally and with respect.

Facilitators can help discussion by making sure everyone understands any new words and sometimes rewording questions. They do not need to know the answers to all questions. However, it is helpful if they know how to help others find the right answers. Summarising decisions reached within a group can be very useful when facilitators are either taking things forward or concluding a discussion.

  • How can we encourage people who lack self-confidence, or who are very shy and quiet, to share their views?
  • What happens if one or two people dominate group discussion, particularly if other group members do not share their views? How can such a situation be avoided?
  • What should facilitators do if they do not know the answers to questions?
  • Read John 4:1-26. Here we read of how Jesus met with a Samaritan woman. Travelling through the country of Samaria was the shortest route between Judea and Galilee. However, relationships between Jews and Samaritans were very poor. It was unusual for Jews to speak with Samaritans, or for men to speak to women in such a way. In addition it was very unusual for a woman to draw water at midday, which indicates that this woman felt herself an outcast from society.
    • What barriers could have made it difficult for Jesus to listen properly to this woman?
    • What are the barriers we find in listening to people and valuing their views?
    • How can we overcome these barriers?
    • What was it about Jesus that encouraged this woman to talk with him?
    • What was the outcome of their discussion?
  • How could we improve our skills as facilitators?