“If you are not careful to keep your hands on the controls, there are several in your group who are ready and willing to chart a new course.”
Every Small Group is filled with a variety different types of people. Even people with much in common usually have wildly different characteristics – especially when it comes to group discussion. Your goal as a Small Group leader is to bring everyone into the conversation. Like a pilot of an airplane, you have a destination in mind. If you are not careful to keep your hands on the controls, there are several in your group who are ready and willing to chart a new course.
As a Small Group leader, you need to learn how to deal with each individual as you navigate your group through the discussion. Here are some you will encounter…
1. The Class Clown: This person often wants the attention and usually disrupts the discussion with jokes, distracting comments, etc.
What to do: It’s ok to be lighthearted at times; but if it is becoming too much, don’t give attention to the distractions. Override the distraction by repeating the question and/or calling on a specific person to answer.
2. The Perpetual Crisis: This person loves drama and the attention it brings. They may often refer to their own personal drama or the drama of other people they know. You may hear it in their answers or even in the form of prayer requests. Yes, your group should be a place where people feel comfortable enough to share their deep struggles; but people who always seem to be stuck in a crisis can eventually begin to wear down the rest of the group.
What to do: Don’t make a bigger deal of “drama” than necessary. Possibly stop and pray about the situation publically – then move on. Note: If the same reoccurring problem comes up often in conversation, it may be a sign of something that needs to be dealt with on a more personal level. (Anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, not facing truth, etc.)
3. The Debater: This person often wants to debate and argue. Sometimes it is over a scriptural issue; sometimes it is not. Occasional light-hearted debate is healthy; but watch out for people who are more inclined to stir things up rather than contribute to the discussion.
What to do: It’s ok to leave some questions unanswered. It’s ok to agree to disagree on certain points. Ultimately, you are in control, and may simply need to move on.
4. The Deep Thinker: This person wants to explore all the answers to the deep passages of scripture – some of which are still being debated among reputable scholars. This person may look similar to “The Debater”, but they have good intentions.
What to do: It’s ok to leave some questions unanswered. It’s ok to admit that you do not know the answer to every question they may have about God’s Word. If it is not a subject that relates to your intended direction, it’s ok to simply move on.
5. The Interrupter: This person cuts off other people’s answers in order to interject their own answer or opinion. This is rarely a good or positive thing.
What to do: You may need to start each week with a reminder that everyone should be allowed to finish their answer. If interruptions persist, remind the group. You may eventually need to directly address the person who continues to interrupt. Note: You as the leader have the authority to interrupt a person if necessary.
6. The Monopolizer: This person answers every question and fills every dead space. The group discussion can easily become a two-way conversation between the leader and one participant. (Often the rest of the class just watches the conversation take place, or loses interest altogether.)
What to do: Be aware of who has answered frequently and who is being left out. Call on a different person by name. Ask for more answers to the same question from the rest of group. You may need to talk to this person privately to explain that you would like to help others in the group open up as well.
7. The Rambler: On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a person whose answers are consistently WAY too long.
What to do: You may need to interrupt this person to refocus on directly answering the question. If it’s a reoccurring problem, say to the group “Answer this next question in only two sentences” or “in 30 seconds” or even “in 5 words or less.” If the problem persists on a weekly basis, you can also try beginning your discussion time with a comment like, “I want to be sure everyone has an opportunity to share in the discussion tonight, so let’s all try to limit our responses to 2 minutes.”
But wait, there’s more… (Click here for #8-#14)
-By Eddie Zdanio
(Note: Title image background courtesy of freepix.com)