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Blog » 10 Ways to Jump Start Conversation
10 Ways to Jump Start Conversation
The easiest way to start conversation is with a question. You can't expect conversation to take off on its own. So if you want to generate conversation on your Table's discussion board, you need to prime the pump with some engaging questions.
The first thing to do is answer the question yourself. Never ask a question that you're afraid to answer. Plus your answer will encourage others to chime in.
And feel free to stack the deck—ask a few staff members or friends to answer the question and get the ball rolling. People are more likely to respond to an active thread than one so lacking in replies that you can hear the crickets.
Another key is to stick to questions that people can easily answer. Anyone can answer questions about their opinion or their experience. But if you get too specific or too deep then people have to think too hard or don't have an answer. Your goal is to ask engaging, inviting questions.
Here are some general types of questions you can use to get things started. Run one every week or every month to keep discussion rolling. You'll be amazed at how you can get to know your fellow church members. And as people see activity in the discussion board they'll be more likely to start their own discussions.
1. What about our church? People like to talk about their own experiences and asking about the shared experience of your church can get some good responses. Plus it's a good way to build community. Reflecting on why people first decided to come to your church or their favorite church memory is a good way to remind people why they love your church. That can be especially helpful when you're about to do an outreach event and are trying to encourage people to invite their friends.
2. Were you sleeping during the sermon? If you're unsure what kind of questions to ask, a sure-fire approach is to ask questions about the sermon. It's regular weekly content and asking questions about it will help your congregation get more out of it. This one is ideal to do every week in order to get people in the habit of doing it. But if you do it every week, be sure to ask questions unique to the sermon. Don't just ask what their favorite part was or what stuck out to them. Ask them what they think the parable of the seeds means or how as a church you can learn from the example of Acts 2. Make it specific.
3. How can we do this better? Churches are notorious for having outdated processes that were set up three volunteers ago and no longer efficient or productive. Before diving in with yet another system, tap into the expertise within your church and ask how you can do something better. Be sure to relate this one to people's experience—don't ask the best way to set up a new church calendar, ask how people track church events at home.
4. Getting to know you. A couple years ago on Facebook there was a popular message making the rounds that consisted of 25 random things. People would share 25 things their friends probably didn't know about them, and then their friends would do the same. It spread like wildfire. Why? People loved to read them because they could get to know their friends better and people loved posting them because they could talk about themselves. Posting a series of ‘get to know you' type questions and asking people to respond with their answers could be a good way to get conversation rolling.
5. Groups are a chance to get specific. A children's ministry might ask questions about parenting, an outreach ministry might ask for evangelism resources and a football group might ask about the best place to watch the big game.
6. What do you think about change? People have very strong opinions when it comes to change ("but that's how we've always done it!") and will be happy to share. Two discussion threads that prompted the greatest response at my church were changing the service times and ditching the weekly bulletin for PowerPoint. Nothing brings the lurkers out of the woodwork like proposing change. Just be sure you're asking for real input and you actually care about the input. Don't ask people just to ask them and then ignore their feedback. And don't manufacture a controversy just to get a discussion going. That's lame.
7. Share your story. Once upon a time the testimony was a powerful force in the church. It still can be. Ask people to share how they came to Christ or how they've responded to a crisis of faith. The bonus of these kinds of questions is that they don't require an advanced degree in theology. People can speak from their own experience.
8. What should we do for an event? Another great way to generate discussion is to ask for input on an upcoming event. If it's a regular event, ask what worked and what didn't on the last event and see what you can improve. People will be happy to share their opinions and you can make your event better.
9. Quiz time! Everybody loves a good quiz. The age of Google and Wikipedia make it harder to stump people online, but you could stick to the honor system or go with questions unlikely to be answered online (how many rows are in your sanctuary?). Questions that encourage guessing are probably better than stumpers as the goal is to get people to speak up and interact. You don't want to shut down the conversation with a total brain stumper. Something like who is Pastor Jessie's favorite Bible hero might be a fun, guessable way to start.
10. True or False? Another fun discussion starter is to throw out some historical facts about your church and play a little game of true or false. Was your church really founded in someone's basement in the 1950s? Did your church's most recent performance of the Easter Cantata really feature the youth pastor as Judas? Did your pastor really moonwalk across the platform during a sermon in the 1980s? Photographic proof is strongly encouraged.
There's a reason why they call them ice breakers. Try a few out with your church and get some discussion going.