“Confronting Challenges” is a recurring blog segment by Victoria Fann, a Ben Franklin Circle host in North Carolina with several decades of facilitation experience. 


As Ben Franklin Circle hosts, we’ve agreed to facilitate a group over a fairly long period of time, especially if we meet monthly, and even longer (as in the case with my group) if we’ve had to reschedule a few meetings along the way. In the beginning, when everything is fresh, diving into the virtues can feel like an adventure and an opportunity to explore new perspectives, new ideas and new ways of being in the world. Like anything else, over time, the initial excitement can wane, putting a bit of pressure on the host to keep things interesting.


Am I striking a few familiar chords?


Don’t despair, this is perfectly normal. A group is formed by the relationships between its members, and as with any relationship, there will be plateaus. The good news is that there are some wonderful ways that you can infuse your group with renewed enthusiasm and member engagement.


Here are seven “out of the box” suggestions:

      1. Make it Fun. Try some new activities to make the discussion fun. You can do an online search to find more ideas, but here are a few to get you started.
          • Each person can tell a personal story about the topic.
          • Add a game, such as charades, with the virtue as the focus or theme.
          • Start a conversation by asking each person draws a picture of what that week’s virtue means to them.
          • A couple of group members could organize a virtue-focused scavenger hunt.


      2. Change Locations. Sometimes a new environment can make a meeting more enjoyable. If you’ve been meeting in a café, try scheduling your next meeting in a park. If you’ve been meeting in an office, try meeting in a restaurant over a meal. If you’ve been meeting for a while, see if someone in the group would like to host the group in their home.

      4. Have a Potluck. Gathering over food makes almost everything feel more festive and fun. You can meet for a potluck or add simple finger foods. In the nice weather, you can have a picnic.

      6. Invite a Guest Speaker. If a group member knows someone that might add some insight and wisdom to the topic, consider inviting them to speak for part of the meeting time and then have your discussion as usual.

      8. Invite Members to Guest Facilitate. Even if you are the host, you can invite members of the group to join in facilitating. This can give you a much-needed break and allow you to enjoy the group as a member.

      10. Ben Franklin’s Chart. For many years, Franklin used a daily chart to help him track his progress with each virtue. Circle members could print and use a version of Franklin’s chart for several weeks and report back to the group.

      12. Community Action. You can select one virtue and set up a 30-Day Challenge in which each member practices the virtue for 30 days by taking action in the community. For example, with the virtue of Cleanliness, each member could agree to go through their belongings and clean out any excess and donate it or pick up trash in their neighborhood.



Feeling inspired already? Perhaps this list will motivate you to think of your own creative ideas. Thinking outside of the box can bring new energy to your group and open up new ways of exploring the virtues. Plus, it ‘s fun and who couldn’t use a little more fun in their lives?