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March 23, 2009

The Hot Seat

Sometimes warmth helps you grow rather than wilt


In the U.S., over the past few weeks, we've had lots of people in the "hot seat." What I mean is there have been many corporate and public figures getting grilled with questions from media, lawmakers, and angry citizens about the economy and their handling of other people's money.

Interestingly enough, while many people wilt under the pressure of the hot seat, I've seen the "hot seat" practice be a breath of fresh air and provide grace to some struggling small groups recently. While we think of the "hot seat" being a place of fiery questioning and accusation, the "hot seat" can also be a place of warmth and growth if you approach it differently.

Here's an idea: Each time your group meets, pick one person, or have a volunteer sit in the "hot seat." It's not a physical chair you sit in, but an opportunity for one person to share some of their story. Then, for 5-10 minutes, have other members of the group lovingly ask questions to the person in the hot seat about their life.

It's good to develop some ground rules for the process, such as:

  • Don't put someone in the "hot seat" that doesn't want to be there.

  • Allow the person in the hot seat to pass on some questions, but have them share something else interesting about themselves instead of answering a question they pass on.

  • The leader may want questions written by group members ahead of time so that potentially inappropriate questions can be screened.

  • Time management for this exercise is a must. You may want to narrow the question list down to three or four initial questions, giving the group the opportunity to ask one follow-up question for each response.

While the process sounds intimidating at first, the interaction from the process has actually generated greatly increased levels of active concern and love toward group members who answer questions about their life situations. One leader recently emailed me about the outcome of implementing this process in his group, which had been struggling with stagnation: "We implemented the hot seat tonight. We had a volunteer and everyone asked a question of her. It seemed to be beneficial and helpful in promoting transparency. We can almost see through each other now!"

Many groups do something similar to this by having group members take turns sharing their testimonies. The "hot seat" accomplishes nearly the same outcome without having to prepare your "testimony speech" ahead of time. If you need some guidance with question asking, check out some great articles about question asking here.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

posted by Dan Lentz on March 23, 2009 12:42 PM

Related Tags: Dan Lentz, group discussion, hot seat, icebreakers, questions


Dan, this sounds just crazy enough to work! :) And I really like the image for this post--very cool.

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