4. Expansive questions work better than only one possible answer. Listeners don’t like being asked for something very specific – who wants to get it wrong? They know you want them to say something specific, so chances are stacked against them. Tuesday night’s message worked well because the invitation was for input from a vast array of possible answers. I was primarily asking for examples of incidents in the gospels where Peter and John would have learned from being with Jesus (and since they were almost always there, there weren’t many “wrong answers”). I would be more guarded about asking for input on a single text, since the first comment could give away the whole resolution to the tension of the narrative, or whatever. It can be done, but carefully.
5. Graciousness is key. But how you deal with “wrong answers” matters deeply. If someone had referred to an incident where Peter & John weren’t present, it really wouldn’t help anyone to respond harshly, “uh, no! That was only Nathaniel with Jesus on that occasion!” Making the contributor feel foolish hurts everyone. They would feel for him, they would be less likely to risk talking, they would lose interest in your message (since you don’t seem to care about them). Much better to receive all input positively, “Great thought. Thinking about it, I’m with you on that, I’m sure Nathaniel would have told the others about that even though they weren’t physically present. Thanks.” I was at a conference earlier this summer where the presenter chose to take questions, but was then harsh and sometimes bordering on brutal in how he responded to them. Not helpful at all. (And maybe some preachers simply shouldn’t do interaction.)
6. Non-traditional journeys still need a destination. To put it another way, an interactive message is not a short-cut to avoid preparation. You can’t be at the mercy of those present to make sure it goes somewhere worthwhile. You have to know where you are going and make sure they get there. They are at your mercy, not the other way around. A meandering walk through the forest isn’t good if it ends somewhere in the middle and you then walk away. Make sure you get them to the right place at the right time.
7. Interaction takes time. It is hard to gauge how long a contributor will talk once they start. You have to be able to graciously stop lengthy input, but it isn’t easy. I wouldn’t consider significant interaction unless there was time available for it. Good interaction can be wasted if there is then a panicked rush at the end to get to the destination.
What would you add to this list?