What are the roles of facilitator(s) and advisor(s)?
The role of the facilitator is to:
- Build community in the group, making sure that each person is included, heard, and valued
- Help participants bring their own experiences to the living tradition we share
- Ensure the group begins and ends on time and maintains its covenant
- Guide the group through the session outline
- Establish and maintain a comfortable, inclusive tone and feeling in the session.
The facilitator is also a participant in discussion, but the group process is the facilitator's first consideration. They need to be present, to help keep things on track, but it is vital that facilitators refrain from "leading" too much. They can move discussions along, but the members truly own the group and have primary responsibility for its success or failure.
Choose facilitators for their interpersonal skills and commitment to the program. They need training and ongoing support. Chapter 3 offers a sample, two-session training. For ongoing support, provide facilitators with regular, scheduled meetings with a designated person, such as a youth advisor, religious educator, or minister, to evaluate how the group is going and to continue developing facilitation skills.
It is important that youth feel a connection to facilitators who work with them. You might ask youth to suggest facilitators. Youth themselves make good facilitators of small group ministry sessions. Facilitation of small group ministry is such a powerful tool for leadership development you will not want to waste it by asking only adults to facilitate. You may have youth with previous facilitation experience who are comfortable leading entire sessions. Open the invitation to facilitator training to all youth. Some will be comfortable facilitating after the training; others may not. To assist youth in growing into the role of facilitator, consider shared facilitation.
There are different ways to share facilitation of sessions. Youth and adults can share facilitation of each session or alternate facilitating sessions. You can also use shared facilitation to build leadership skills among many members of the group. Ask for volunteers to coordinate different parts of a session: One participant could share an Opening, while another introduces the focus, and yet another leads the Check-out. If you decide to assign roles this way, always have a back-up plan in case a participant is for any reason unable to complete their assignment. Make sure you are available before the session to secure any needed resources and follow up with preparation.
If you are a youth who will facilitate sessions, remember there are adult advisors you can call on for help, if needed. If a group of all youth are meeting, adult advisors should still be present within the building for the sake of safety. Advisors fill an important role. They help create a safe space for the sessions. In the context of a small group, an advisor is both a resource and a participant. They might share facilitation. If only youth facilitate, advisors serve as important resources for materials, communication, and a bridge to the wider congregation.
One of the first duties of a facilitator is to help the group develop a covenant. This is important because of the relational aspect of small group ministry. This covenant, or promise on how to be together, can help the group move from just avoiding disruption and conflict to demonstrating a way of caring. Developing a covenant should be one of the first activities of a group. Review the covenant whenever a new person joins the group, and at least annually. Sample Session 2, Being Together, Part II includes guidance on creating a covenant.