Notes taken from the session with Jim Mullins and Chris Gonzalez (September 20, 2015).
These practices are to help guide you as you lead a table. These are by no means requirements in leading, but rather helps. If there are items here that you anticipate with assist you well with your table, utilize it. If they will not, do not use it.
Think about good questions
Prior to leading your tables, you must know the content of what you will be discussing. However, if you don't have engaging open-ended questions, your table times will feel flat and unproductive. You will also not drive your table to the core of what they need to wrestle through and ultimately see in their reading. Spend a majority of your preparation time thinking through good questions. Consider utilizing Plato's Dialogues to help you grasp the art of good question asking.
A key to where your table is at concerning engagement with the content is body language. Learn to recognize disinterest, boredom or apathy and develop ways to call your table back to engage strongly with the content. Also, don't be boring.
Recognize Difficult Seasons (and plan accordingly)
Some of the most difficult moments of the year are December/January and April/May. The first is difficult because of the variety of schedules to accommodate, the second is difficult because the year is ending. Make sure to plan ahead for your table. Let them see the plan for at least a few weeks out, so they can be confident that you are planning well and prioritize these moments. This will also encourage them to plan well in their lives and prioritize these moments. Encourage your tables to finish strong and not fizzle out at the end–find creative ways to do this.
Take Attendance / Check Reading
One option to help encourage your tables to attend is to take attendance each time. Also, as you take attendance have each person tell the table if they read their portion for that week.
"Send me your notes"
One thing that is helpful to establish early on is your expectations if someone is not able to make the table. One helpful method is to ask them to send you their notes ahead of time with an explanation of why you are absent. It is not enjoyable to be a table leader and have someone not show up without at least knowing why they are not there. What you communicate in these moments will show the rest of the table the importance of attending. Also, receiving these notes from your participant will allow the table to have a full discussion in lieu of the person absent.
Consider heavily the place that your table will meet. As you decide this, think through the content that you will be walking your table through and what environment will be most conducive to your conversation. You probably don't want to meet in a basement with no windows–this is creepy and will not help your table to think about the application of this to real life.
Ownership: Name in a hat – leading a table
In order to inspire ownership with your table, have each of your participants put their name in a hat and each time you meet, draw a name and have this person lead the discussion. We would suggest starting this after week 6 in order to let them see you lead a table, so they have a good model for what leading a table is like.
Look Back (Reflect) / Look Forward (Plan)
When you discuss Bless Rhythms, have your group alternate reflecting and planning. In reflecting, have your table look back over their previous week to see the rhythms there and discuss the intentionality that they put into each day or moment. In planning, have your table look forward to that week and let the group know items that are currently planning to do for Bless Rhythms that week.
Start Small and Build
Let your table know that these rhythms can sometimes be difficult to work into your life. Encourage them by sharing that they shouldn't expect to necessarily change the world on their first try. Have them focus on something small that they can do to bless their neighbor and each they do it to plan consider what else could be done to build on this small start.
Use Examples from your life
Share examples in your own life of how the Bless Rhythms operate. Be honest about your struggles and difficulties, but show the result of your efforts. Also, be transparent about what God has done in your life through these rhythms.
Quarter 1: Gospel Story
Week 1 is the most important
By far, the first week of Surge is the most important. It is the content of this week that will set the tone for your entire conversation in quarter 1. Make sure that your group understands the weight of reading Scripture in a unified way prior to moving into the rest of the material. If you don't do this, your table will just look at their reading during this quarter as a bible overview and will miss the majority of the thrust of this quarter.
Contest: Reading the Prologue
Consider challenging your table to a contest to see who can read the prologue the most times that week. Provide a prize if you desire ($10 gift card, etc.).
Exercise their imagination
If you only convey the concepts without getting your group to picture in their minds the outcome, you've missed an opportunity to allow the material to impact the lives of your table. Use Shaped By the Story to help your table visualize the redemptive story in their lives and in their world.
Start with Story
Have your table share pieces of their story periodically as you progress through this quarter. Consider narrowing your focus to a specific piece of their overall life story. So, instead of saying "Tell us about you", consider saying, "Tell us about your parents" or "Tell us about one of your best vacations".
Hang your hat - Shapes & Prologue
For the first quarter, hang your hat on the prologue to Drama of Scripture and also to the shapes that are utilized in the first article to help your group visualize the grand redemptive story.