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Whenever my mom talks about leading groups of people in present or past bible studies, I can’t help but think “That sounds like a situation that’s come up in my Pathfinder groups.” After experiencing this enough times, I decided to briefly interview my mom with the goal of finding useful parallels between successfully leading a bible study and being a successful GM.
Question: What are your primary goals as a women’s discussion leader in Bible Study Fellowship?
Here’s a few things I keep in mind:
1. Be well prepared for the discussion – Read your material
2. Most situations can be resolved with charm, kindness and encouragement.
3. While rare, when all options are exhausted, sometimes you have to tell a woman she’s not a good fit for the group (One instance in the last 23 years)
Question: What responsibilities do you have as a discussion leader outside of discussion time?
Also, every week we have a leaders meeting, probably about 20 minutes each week where we go over what’s going on in our groups each week, like what’s been working, what hasn’t been working. You’re leading a group of human beings; there’s bound to be differences in opinion. So during our leaders meetings we run through hypothetical situations and discuss possible methods to resolve them.
Finally, once a year we have a workshop. We go on a weekend retreat, fellowship and learn how to better lead our groups.
Oh, and most importantly of all, we pray on our knees.*
*I finally let on I was interviewing her for the sake of Pathfinder and thought this was important for you to know.
Unsurprisingly, at least to me, there are tons of parallels on being a good discussion leader and being a good GM. Managing people, no matter the reason, deals with the same issue: You're dealing with people. Some are easy to work with, others not as much.
Here's some lessons I've taken away:
1. Balanced Sharing - This seems an eternal struggle in one of my groups, where we have dominating players and shy or simply less talkative players. The GM should single out the shy ones to get them more involved; have an NPC interact with them specifically, delegate some task to them like tracking initiative.
2. Communicate with players - In BSF, this takes the form of a weekly phone call. In Pathfinder, it's sometime easy to skip this step, but I think it's an important one for the long term health of a gaming group. It doesn't have to be weekly even, but you really want to keep a pulse on how players are individually feeling about the campaigns. Is it fun? What makes it not fun? What would you like to do in the future?
3. Training - In our group, everyone has been/will be a GM at some point, so I think it could really be fun to put together a workshop once a year, every 6 months or whatever and try out new strategies/ways to play to shake things up. One idea I want to try out is a scenario where we take turns GMing a single session; shifting control of the bad guys and NPCs. But the bad guy has a stated objective "I'm going to destroy this city with my hoard of undead" and each GM works within that framework.
What do you think? Does the bible study model have something to offer to GMs learning the ropes?