In this episode of All-Stars, Dan interviews Theo Smith, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who belongs to what’s called an “area chapter” of OCF.
Having a great conversation at your meetings is more than just having an interesting topic–it takes real leadership to facilitate discussion and make sure everyone’s voice’s are heard. Here are some pointers on leading discussion!
The Invisible Facilitator
Facilitators should not try to correct, teach, inform, and dominate in the discussion. The job of the facilitator is to invisibly direct the discussion to where it is fruitful and all participants are given the chance to speak. This takes some self-restraint (you may have something to say to correct someone…DON’T DO IT), humility (even if you know the “answer,” allow people to come to it on their own), patience (there might be some people who try to dominate, or who are long-winded; don’t cut them off immediately, they might just need a little time), discernment (on the same token, if people go on for too long, you need to discern whether it is harming the rest of the discussion, and find a positive, respectful, but abrupt and definitive way to end their commentary) and much more!
Silence Is Golden
It’s easy to be afraid of awkward silences after you have posed a question. You can surely restate the question in a different way if no one seems to connect, but also remember that silences are important in discussions. People need time to think about what was just posed, and asking them to respond immediately after you state a question is unrealistic. A silence, even up to ten seconds long, will enrich your discussion.
It’s All About the Question
Make sure when you ask a question, it is not leading. In other words don’t ask “So don’t you all think that talk/article/passage was all about…” This kind of question isn’t really a question. You want to broaden the possibilities for response. Often there is not just one right answer. Allow for different perspectives by asking something like, “What did you all think when [speaker] talked about…” or “How do you think [topic] relates to our everyday life?”
Specifically ask the quieter members what they think of the topic; and, as kindly as possible, rein in the unrelentingly verbal members who don’t let others speak. Make sure every participant has an opportunity to be heard.
Summarize as You Go
After discussing, for instance, different ways that a particular topic is applicable to our everyday life, stop and ask the group, “OK, what have we said so far?” Recap and allow time to breathe, to re-gather thoughts, and start thinking again. This is a very important role that the facilitator takes. In a sense you cannot engage in as much depth as the participants because you have to see a few steps ahead, and discern what the most fruitful avenue will be.
Tie It All Together
When the allotted time for the discussion is up (or when people are tired or ready to go), do a full summary of what you covered. “We said…We agreed that… But some of us disagreed with…and said that…” etc. etc. If you can’t remember everything, that’s OK. But it is good to re-cap most of the discussion in order to see the fruits of your labor.
Original by Mike Tishel, adapted by Christina Andresen
In case you didn’t know, OCF has a TON of great resources on the website you can use for your chapter. Here’s how to use the OCF blog.
Read an article and have a discussion.
Create discussion questions.
You don’t need us to do all the work! After you read the article come up with some questions you can talk about during your meeting.
- Pick a specific moment or statement that spoke to you and ask your group what it means to them.
- Select a section you were confused by and ask your group what they think it’s trying to say.
- Highlight a part that made you think of a personal experience and ask your group if they can think of a moment in their life where they saw a similar thing happening.
- If you struggle with anything said in the article, ask your group for advice.
- Ask your group if they see any practical applications.
Using this blog on the What-If Demon as an example, here are some sample discussion questions:
- “It seems he especially likes to pester young Orthodox Christians with all sorts of what-if’s about dating, relationships, marriage, and monasticism.” What sort of what-if questions are you faced with? How do you handle them?
- “The present moment is the place where time and eternity meet and where God enters into our lives.” Where have you seen God entered into your life?
- “But the nasty What-If demon twists this necessary and spiritual undertaking into an anxiety-ridden, paralyzing question filling us with guilt, worry, and fear.” Sometimes I worry about what is going to happen for me after graduation. What if I don’t get a job or into law school? It fills me with fear for the future. Does that happen to anyone else? What do you do?
- “We can’t confuse his what-if’s with repentance for the past or discernment about the future. Don’t let him convince you that his imaginary situations where he replays your past with anguishing regret are the same as contrition or the images he throws before you with terrorizing anxiety of futures that haven’t happened need to be addressed to find God’s will.” What do you think this section is trying to say?
Sometimes, the article even has questions built in for you!
- “Do you say “yes” to Christ in this moment with this breath? Are you listening for His call in your heart right now? Can you see Him in the person or situation that’s right in front of you?” These are perfectly easy questions to discuss with your chapter!
Have a Bible Study.
Never read the whole Bible? Confused by how it’s organized? Clueless as to where to begin? Never fear, OCF is here!
Help get your Bible Study going with the right texts and explanations from experts!
Here’s a great article from the OCF blog about the New Testament Canon to get you started!
Get advice on leading your chapter.
There’s also a whole section of posts on topics like getting more people to come to your meetings, managing chapter funds, working with other religious organizations, and more! Learn from others’ experience what works! Click on the tag Chapter Guide to access these articles!
Don’t see something you want or need?? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and comments, and we’ll do our best to help you out!
Today I will address the student question, What to do when you’re the only Orthodox student at your school (that you know of)?
This is a toughie.
The very first thing you can do is pray. Pray that God will give you strength in your solidarity and that he will send you people when the time is right.
Here are some other things you can do:
- Check out the churches in the area to see if there are people your age going to church who just don’t know about OCF. Talk to the priest(s) to see if they know of any Orthodox students.
- If there are other schools close by, see if they have an OCF you can join.
- Attend Regional Retreats and College Conference to meet people in your area – you never know who will show up!
- See if there are any ethnic clubs of countries or nationalities from which Orthodox people usually hail.
- Get in touch with your Regional Student Leader. They can help you connect with Orthodox people in the area and get a chapter started from the ground up.
Don’t give up! Bear witness to your faith and fight the good fight!
Today I would like to answer a student question we received: “How can I keep people intrigued enough in OCF to come to meetings?”
After recruiting new members at the activities fair with your icons, Bibles, and the promise of free food if they come to the first meeting, the beginning of the year is always a promising time. Old students who fell away last year return again with vows of coming more often and new students show up eager and interested. But as the semester goes on, attendance takes a plunge. It’s understandable: college schedules are crazy, and people have other commitments. Here’s some advice for making OCF something students will want to make time for.
- Get to know the new people in your OCF. Coming into an already established group where everyone already knows each other is intimidating, so it’s important to make them feel welcome and included. Remember their name and say hi to them if you see them around campus. Offer to take them to church and introduce them to the priest. Shoot them an email if they don’t show up to meetings saying you missed them.
- Keep your meeting time consistent. Whether you meet once a week or once a month, keep it the same. Have a start time and an end time and stick to it. That way, people will know exactly when and how long they need to block off their schedule for and can plan around it.
- Make a schedule. I recommend making a monthly schedule at the start of each month and sharing it with your chapter. If they see something on the schedule that interests them, like a discussion on a specific topic or a volunteer event, they’ll make the time for it. It’s also nice to go into meetings knowing what to expect, especially for new students. Structure and organization are key.
- Don’t have only lectures. OCF is a great resource for learning more about the faith, but as college students we spend our entire day being lectured at. The last thing anyone wants to do is sit through another lecture – even if it’s interesting. Format lectures as more of a Q&A or discussion style to get people involved. For ideas on how to incorporate all four pillars of OCF (fellowship, education, worship, and service), check out the Back to Basics blog.
- Plan some social events on the weekends. It can be as simple as all going out for pizza on a Friday night. Sometimes the week runs away from us with studying, work, and other responsibilities. Everyone needs to take time to kick back on the weekend for a bit, so make it part of OCF!