We’ve all been there—members of a small group where another group member or the leader dominates the conversation every…single…week. What is your first thought? Boring? I wish this guy would let others talk? Why isn’t he asking questions?
There is a vast difference between group leaders who are facilitators and group leaders who dominate discussion and don’t ask the right questions or do the right things to give others the opportunity to speak up and add value to the conversation.
The reality is group leaders should only talk 30% of the time. If you’re a group leader, pause and think about what percentage of time you talk. Do you give the members of your group the opportunity to speak up and answer questions? There are always going to be people in your group who will never speak. Maybe they’re just uncomfortable speaking in front of a group. But maybe they don’t add to the conversation because there are a few people who always answer questions and give their opinion. Allow me to give you a few tips on how to involve others.
Be comfortable with silence. This is important. After you pose a question to your group, wait for 20 seconds. For someone who likes to lead, this can feel like an eternity. But those you lead need time to process what you’ve asked and formulate an answer, and that takes time. Do your best to wait 20 seconds before saying anything.
Sit next to the person who dominates the conversation. If there is one group member who is always the first to answer the questions you ask, sit next to them. Chances are that person is less likely to answer if they are sitting right next to you. Not making eye contact with them affords others the opportunity to answer questions as well.
Talk between meetings. If allowing for a brief silence and sitting next to the conversation dominator don’t help, talk to that person between meetings. I would suggest you do it away from the small group environment, whether that’s at a church or in a home. Coffee shops are a great atmosphere. A conversation may go something like this: “Hey, I’m really thankful you’re so responsive when I ask questions in small group, but I want to give others the opportunity to speak up as well. Can you help me with that?”
Make it a point to involve others. When posing a question to your group, ask another member what they think or how they interpret the question. “Carolyn, how did interpret the passage in Mark 7?” “Joel, how does the text we are studying apply directly to your situation right now?”
A couple of resources that may help you as you lead your group are Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, by Sam O’Neal, and Leading Life Changing Small Groups, by Bill Donahue. Leaders have a wonderful opportunity to help people become more mature disciples of Christ. Facilitation over domination always needs to be top of mind.
Matt Morris is a Brand Manager at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He has served in ministry for over 11 years. Matt is married to Carmen and they have twins, Hudson and Harper. Matt and his family are members of First Baptist Church Mount Juliet, where he serves as a deacon.