· Following Jesus

3 Tips for Using Short Films in Small-Group Discussions

When it comes to running a small group, good dialogue is everything. You want deep conversation in an informal setting. This allows people to share their thoughts and wrestle with critical ideas in a safe environment.

Short films can play a powerful and significant role in spurring these discussions for several reasons:

  • They don’t require a considerable time investment.
  • They tend to be ambiguous, allowing for different interpretations and ideas.
  • They tackle universal topics that everyone can relate to.

Jesus Film Project® has an extensive library of short films (with more being added regularly). So let’s look at some strategies for getting the most out of them in a small-group context.

1. Familiarize yourself with the film

You might think you can watch a film with your group and ask great questions off the fly or that the discussion will just happen naturally. The truth is that the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to facilitate genuine and robust conversations.

Watch the film a couple of times and ask yourself questions like:

  • What feelings is the filmmaker trying to draw out here?
  • Is the filmmaker raising a question or making a point?
  • Where does this theme or plot intersect with the faith? Is this connection obvious?

The more you interact with the film on this level, the better you’ll be at crafting questions that draw people into deep and vulnerable discussion.

2. Focus on encouraging discussion

When you’re leading Christians in a group discussion or study, there’s a real temptation to get people to the finish line. We sometimes think the point of a discussion is to lead others to a specific point. But sometimes the point isn’t to help people figure out what to think, but to help them discover how to think.

So we want to be careful not to push people to reach a specific conclusion but to encourage them to discuss the various ways the film touches them. So think about asking open-ended, exploratory questions and not questions where there is only one “right” answer.

Sometimes this means encouraging others to be open, too. Sometimes group members will begin shepherding people to the conclusion they think is essential, and you’ll want to keep people talking and the discussion open.

3. Ask follow-up questions

When we interact with a piece of art, we’re not necessarily sharing the artist’s perspective, but we’re seeing it through our own experiences. So when someone answers a question about the film’s meaning, they’re interjecting their autobiography-even if they don’t realize it.

So asking follow-up questions can help explore the “whys” behind individual responses. But it takes responding to comments with questions like “What does that look like in your life?” or “Can you give us an example?” Clarifying questions like these help them think through what has prompted their response.

The power of film

Short films inspire questions and provoke thought. They’re powerful tools for generating conversation. They can help you create transformational discussions in your small group when used well.

If you’re interested in using film in your small group, but you’re not sure where to start, check out these five films:

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