Discussion Guide for Local Gatherings


This guide is intended to help a small group leader direct the discussion on a designated topic.  The leader should be sure that these ground rules are understood:

  • Each participant should have a chance to speak
  • No one should be forced to speak
  • Confidentiality should be maintained
  • No one should comment negatively on another’s opinion
  • The specific topic under discussion should be the focus
  • The leader has the right to move the conversation in new directions as needed
  • The scribe of the group will note ideas generated by the group without individual attribution and will give these notes to the Local Gathering organizer. 

As People Gather

Have all attendees complete the demographic form and return it to the facilitator.

Beginning the Discussion:

The organizer of the meeting and the appointed discussion leader may or may not be the same person. The meeting opens with a prayer service (see suggestions below). The leader should state clearly the topic of the group and give a one or two sentence summary of the issue and should reassure the attendees of their anonymity.  If this is a multi-group Gathering, the overall description of the topics can be done for the large group, and then opened up in greater detail as people go into their small discussion groups.

Opening Remarks:

Invite participants to speak for one or two minutes on the subject, reminding people to stay focused on the topic and their lived experience.  A timekeeper may be necessary, depending on the size of the group.  All shared experiences should ultimately lead to the focus question: How would the group suggest that church teaching be transformed to compassionately address these issues?


The leader may then want to use some questions like these to promote additional discussion:

  • How well do you think the Church understands your family situation in regard to _______ (whatever the specific topic is)?
  • Do we see any threads or common themes in the points that have been raised?
  • What issues under this general topic should we discuss further?
  • Given your knowledge of Church teaching and current experience, what are your realistic solutions for how the Church should address this topic? In other words, how would the group suggest that church teaching be transformed to compassionately address these issues?


  • Before the time of the group meeting is up, the scribe might share the salient points that have been recorded.
  • The group should agree on the most important points to report and, if this is a multi-group meeting, share these with the larger group when they reconvene.
  • The scribe should be sure to give the notes to the Local Gathering organizer.

It is extremely important that the Local Gathering organizer completes the Gathering Report for the specified topic.  This will form the basis for grassroots contributions to the media, to Pastors and Bishops, and to the Vatican.

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