the weblog of Alan Knox

Micro-Seminar Anyone?

Posted by on Sep 22, 2010 in personal | 5 comments

Micro-Seminar Anyone?

I saw the picture attached to this post on Dave Black’s blog (Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 8:12 p.m.). The picture gave me an idea.

I liked the fact that people were sitting on sofas and love-seats. However, even in this more intimate environment, they are all facing the speaker. Now, for a seminar (and for some reason for church meetings), this is normal. But, I was thinking there may be a way to have an even more intimate and relational seminar.

So, I was picture a seminar (syposium, meeting, conference, who knows what to call these things) about a particular topic. People would be invited to prepare a paper/teaching/presentation/etc. concerning the topic. But, each person’s presentation would be limited to 15 minutes. Yes, that’s right, 15 minutes.

After a person makes his or her 15 minute presentation, the others at the seminar would ask questions for the next 15-20 minutes, while the presenter offers his/her answers. Note, this time would only be to ask questions about the particular presentation, not to add to the discussion. During the question/answer session, the presenter would be able to clear up any misunderstandings or vague parts of the presentation.

After the 15 minute question/answer time, there would then be a 30 minute time of discussion. During this time, anyone could bring up a topic related to the presentation. Again, the topic should be related to what was just presented, but during the discussion time, the options for comments would be broader. However, even during this time, each person’s speaking time would be limited to 3-5 minutes. In this way, many people would have a chance to speak and discuss the issue at hand.

Once the discussion time was over, the entire process would start again with another presenter on another (but related) topic.

Of course, the purpose of this (micro?) seminar would be different than most seminars. The focus would not be on the presenters and their presentations, but on everyone who attends teaching and learning from one another. Preferably, those attending would be from the same general geographical area (say Raleigh/Durham, NC – or wherever you are located). So, the micro-seminar would also build unity and relationships among the Christians in a certain area.

The picture above triggered the idea, but I see people sitting on sofas or love-seats or other comfortable chairs in circles all facing one another. The number of participants would probably be limited to 50 or so. Those presenting, asking questions, or commenting could stand or sit where they were, without need for a lectern or podium or even a sound system.

Preferably, the micro-seminar would include one or two meals that all participants would eat together, to further build relationships and discussion among the group.

I would pick a theme for the micro-seminar that would be beneficial to the church. Perhaps something like “Leadership in the Church.” I’m sure that are millions of other themes.

So, that’s my idea. It’s sketchy, but I think it can be beneficial. But, it’s not something that I can do on my own. Is anyone else out there (specifically in the Raleigh/Durham area) interested in helping plan something like this? Do you think it would be beneficial? What would you add, change, etc.?

(By the way, I’m not suggesting that this has never been done. I’ve never been part of something like this, though.)


5 Comments

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  1. 9-22-2010

    I’ll make time to help in any way you want.

    Allelon Meeting?
    Couch Conference?
    Relational Roundtable?
    Sofa Seminar?

    I know this would be handled with simple guidelines, and flexibly rather than rigidly clock-watching on pins and needles. We would be guided by speaking and letting others speak while being interruptable, echoing the collaborative mood of preferring others found in I Cor 14:29-33

    Simplicity, they say, is found on the other side of complexity. So, to over-analyze the logistic details a moment, with time set aside for meals and breaks, only about 6 initial positions could be presented in a day (given that each leads to an hour with 15 min of initial perspective/proposal, followed by 15 min of clarifications (~5 questions asked w/answers given?), and then 30 minutes of resulting discussions (and this section, at 3-5 minutes each, allows for 6-10 people to speak, and for the whole day, 36 to 60 opportunities).

    To expand participation, the presenters might then be asked to remain mostly silent for the subsequent 30 minutes on their topic, unless invited to speak to a point.

    To further expand participation, some speakers might choose to “team-present” a position, and share in the 15 min presentation and the 15 minute clarification Q&A.

    It might also be nice to cut the whole cycle to 50 minutes, rather than an hour. Break. Summary. Who knows. A free ten minutes will be used, even if for reflective silence.

  2. 9-22-2010

    The time logistics are an interesting problem aren’t they? I have thought about how do you grow (numerically) and not institutionalize but still maintain the 1 Cor. 14 discourse (also because this seems to be an impossible hurdle for existing gatherings of 100+ size meetings with the single speaker to consider jumping).

    Not saying the micro-seminar has to meet that, nor does any corporate gathering for that matter, but those cannot be the only type assembling we have.

    I think the micro-seminar could be instrumental in showing the benefit of the interaction vs. single-speaker setting (which I think is the point).

  3. 9-22-2010

    Acts 15 also provides some great insights on how the early church met to openly discuss all sides of a potentially divisive/explosive issue, and came to consensus instead of splintering into Messianic and gentile expressions (which, sadly, some seem prone to do today).

  4. 9-22-2010

    How about the 1st Century synagogue layout. Anyone who has visited the synagogue in the Nazareth Village in Israel will have seen the ideal layout for what you have in mind.

    The inside is nearly square, with a two row stone seating bench reaching out from, and parallel to, each of its four walls, with the back row raised above the front row. This means that anyone can make direct eye contact with 75% of the participants and do the same with the rest by simply turning their head to those closest to them.

    If the four front rows had say 5 and the back rows say 7 seating places each, the area would accommodate say 48 people. Although it may push the concept a bit, one stepped up additional back row could push the accommodation up to say 90. Eye contact for everyone, even with the higher number.

    Anyone speaking can see and be seen equally, no matter where they sit.

    For my friends in the US perhaps a stone bench may be a bit much, so a cushioned one could be provided for them!

  5. 9-22-2010

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I’m always open to suggestions, and you’ve all given me some good ones.

    -Alan