“Be vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”
Elmer Fudd has sat in my group. He may have sat in yours.
You know the person I’m talking about. Let’s say your group is digging into one of Jesus’ parables. Elmer asks the question, “So, do you think there were dinosaurs on the ark?” (Don’t laugh. This happens.) Interesting question, but totally out of left field and away from the point of our study.
Elmer has just chased a rabbit. And too often, the whole group goes running with Elmer after the rabbit.
We chase rabbits anytime we steer away from the Scripture and the point of our study. Sometimes the rabbit is real obvious, as in Elmer’s example, or it can be a slow, subtle shift in the conversation. Anything can get us down the rabbit trail: connecting the study to current events can lead us into politics which can lead us to talking about the problems of the country which can lead us to … well, you get the point. Even questions about fine points in the passage can become rabbit chasing if it’s not integral to our understanding of the passage or moves us away from the focus of the study.
So why do we chase rabbits? It’s easy to head down that path and, frankly, it can be interesting. Most of us like talking about the hot topics of the day—that’s why they’re hot topics—and lots of group members will jump in with their opinions. Everyone gets animated with a lively hot topic discussion, and when it’s over, people think, “We certainly had an interesting class today.”
Interesting, yes. But was it life-changing?
Bible study is not meant to just be an interesting discussion. We want to engage people around God’s Word, discover its truths, and let it impact the way we think, feel, and act.
As the leader, you have studied the passage. You know the point you want the group to discover and apply. You’ve prepared toward that end. So as you facilitate the group, keep them going down the main road of the point and do your best to keep them from chasing rabbits.
Acknowledge the value of the topic raised. When a side issue is brought up, it’s probably important to that person or at least something they’re curious about. Acknowledge that. Affirm the person, but …
- Gently lead the group back to the point of the study. I have found the easiest way to do this is to postpone the side issue without ignoring it.
“That’s an interesting point to bring up. Let’s come back to that if we have time later. “
“Let’s continue this conversation later this week.”
- Use the side issue as an opportunity to engage people outside of the group setting. Use email, your group’s Facebook page, or a conversation over coffee. Use the issue as a way to further relationships within the group.
Ever made a long road trip with kids? You’re on the long haul to Grandma’s house—or to the ultimate, mega theme park—and your junior Elmer Fudd in the backseat wants to chase every billboard. “Oh, can we stop at McDonalds??” “Hey, there’s a petting zoo ahead.” “Can we stop and see the largest ball of string?” As the driver, you just have to keep them on the road. You know that what lies at the end of the trip will benefit them far more than the roadside attractions.
As you lead and facilitate your group, keep them focused on the Scripture and the point of the passage. What lies at the end of the study is worth it.