If you’ve been following Catechist’s Journey for a while, no doubt you’ve read my lament that one of the mistakes we make in adult faith formation is that we assign participants a passive role: we bring in a speaker to do a presentation, perhaps open it up for some Q & A, and call it a night.
One way to ensure that there are more voices being heard than the guest speaker is to recruit several parishioners ahead of time to serve as “responders” for whatever presentation is taking place. This can be especially effective for parish missions, which I know many of you are planning for Advent or Lent.
What do the responders do? First, they listen to the presentation very closely, taking notes on what they are hearing, especially those thoughts or insights that they find most significant for themselves, for the parish, or for the Church as a whole. They also make note of any questions they may have for the speaker and any points of disagreement that they wish to surface respectfully. Finally, they may also offer an insight of their own that they feel was inspired directly by the presentation.
After the main speaker is done with his or her presentation, the responders—perhaps three or four of them—are given three to five minutes to offer their responses to the talk. Parishioners really appreciate hearing their peers offer reactions to a presentation, and it often emboldens them to open up and share more, whether that sharing takes place in a large-group discussion or in small groups.