What do Facilitators do? 

You are a guide.  The group you are facilitating is looking for you to lead them down the discussion road.  You must help them assess needs and help them create plans to meet them.  You guide (not direct or lead) the discussion and keep the group on track avoiding costly diversions.  You use consensus to build group decisions.  You manage conflicts as they arise and help people in the group communicate and understand each other.

Understand The Difference Between Content and Process

Content is what the meeting is about, the words spoken, the task at hand, the goals, the decisions that will be made.   The process deals with the unseen – the methods used, relationships being built, the tools used to lead discussions and arrive at consensus.  In essence process looks at and understands the group dynamics and how to manage them for the benefit of the whole group.

Core Practices

A facilitator is neutral third party.  A good facilitator doesn’t have an agenda when it comes to the content.  Rather s/he walks between the lines.  S/he is an expert at using active listening, Often the facilitator will paraphrase and play back to others what they have said to add clarity.  S/he is an expert at asking directive, open questions, will test assumptions, will redirect questions to the others in the group and will synthesize what people in the group are saying.  Periodically s/he will summarize the discussion to make sure the group is moving forward – together.   

Process Tools — Pointing To Real Action

There are a variety of tools that can be used during the facilitation process.  Space limits detailing these.  Here are some brief explanations that may help you with a group.

  • Visioning – casting vision, dreams, letting people talk freely
  • Brainstorming – there is a method to this, capturing a variety of ideas
  • Gap Analysis – the difference between where we are and where we want to be
  • Priority setting – method of building consensus
  • Decisions Grids – method of building consensus (Google any of these)

The bottom line is this.  If you are going to arrive at consensus and determine a result that people will capture participants’ imagination, agree to, and participate in realizing you need to use some of these tools in the process.

Here is a simple construct that you might use for your time around the table:

  1. Determine what’s the biggest challenge/roadblock to ministry success/breakthrough in this field?
  2. Develop consensus on a vision for change/action that reflects the challenge.
  3. Identify possible realistic action steps that that could facilitate real progress toward the vision.
  4. Develop consensus on near/medium term limited, achievable objectives based on those action steps.
  5. Identify who will facilitate the process; who will provide on-going communication to participants?
  6. Develop a timeline reflecting roles and action steps on which all participants agree.

Facilitator Core Practices Sheet

Check yourself on these………………

Behaviors That Help

  • Listens actively
  • Maintains eye contact
  • Helps indentify needs
  • Gets buy-in
  • Surfaces concerns
  • Defines problems
  • Involves everyone in the discussion
  • Uses good body language & intonation
  • Paraphrases continuously
  • Provides Feedback
  • Accepts and uses feedback
  • Checks time and pace
  • Provides useful feedback,
  • Monitors and adjust the process
  • Ask relevant, probing questions
  • Keeps an open attitude
  • Stay neutral
  • Offers suggestion
  • Is optimistic and positive
  • Manages conflict well
  • Takes a problem-solving approach
  • Stays focused on process
  • Ping-Pongs ideas around
  • Makes accurate notes / charts
  • Looks calm and pleasant
  • Is flexible about changing approach
  • Skillfully summarizes what is said
  • Knows when to stop

Behaviors That Hinder

  • Oblivious to group needs
  • No follow-up on concerns
  • Poor listening
  • Strays into content
  • Loses track of key i
  • Makes poor notes
  • Ignores conflicts
  • Provides no alternatives for structuring the discussion
  • Gets defensive
  • Puts down people
  • No paraphrasing
  • Lets a few people dominate
  • Never asks “How are we doing?”
  • Tries to be the center of attention
  • Lets the group get sidetracked
  • Projects a poor image
  • Uses negative or sarcastic tone
  • Talks too much
  • Doesn’t know when to stop