The seating in the auditorium is strictly pews. Not the traditional, numb-your-bum, all-out uncomfortable pews, but a hybrid of padded seats with hard wooden backs (I am not sure you get any more mileage out of them). The seating arrangement is rigid and fixed, bolted into the carpet-covered concrete floor.
Let the pews stay where they are! I have conceded that battle. Instead, I have marshalled my energies to wage war against minds that remain disengaged and hearts that remain unaffected. I want our Sunday teaching time to invite reflection and response and to move people along in their faith journey. Buzz groups is the latest thing with which I am experimenting.
The basics of buzz groups
A buzz group is a small sub-group of people (2-8 people) that have been intentionally formed from a larger group and assigned at least one thing to discuss among themselves for a defined period of time (e.g., 5 minutes). The group functions without a formal facilitator, although they may be instructed to choose one of their number to summarize their interactions.
I recently implemented buzz groups during our Sunday teaching time. Part way through, I raised an open-ended question and instructed those willing to form a ‘buzz group’ to discuss the question with their pew neighbours. There were about 150 adults in the auditorium.
I emphasized two things: 1) that participation was optional (they could choose to reflect on the question by themselves), and 2) that I wasn’t seeking a particular answer, but that I wanted to hear their perspective on the matter. I released them to begin and thankfully a din of chatter filled the auditorium. After a few minutes, I instructed them to wrap things up. Then I called them back to order and invited people to call out some of the answers their group had generated. I repeated those answers to ensure all heard. Overall the exercise with feedback took about 8 minutes.
The benefit of buzz groups
There are two key reasons that I am trying out buzz groups. The first is that it gives the audience a break from tracking with the speaker. Even the strongest can only take in so much before they feel overloaded and will intentionally or unintentionally ‘zone out’. A buzz group is one way, certainly not the only way, to facilitate a mental pit stop.
I am also looking for ways to enable people to interact with material from more than one angle and in more than one way. Dr. Nick Morgan at Public Words calls this interleaving. Although at first it might feel disjointed, the variety in presentation facilitates greater recall by the audience.
What do you think, in your next presentation is there a place to try buzz groups?
Some more of the story
How Do I Use Buzz Groups in Training? By Dan Boudreau via The Training World
Using Buzz Groups in Your Teaching by Kenneth O. Gangel via Bible.org
Upper Photo Credit – Buzz groups by Nick Wright Planning via Flickr
Lower Photo Credit – Lion Bored by Eric Kilby via Flickr