“You want the passengers to enjoy the journey; but you also need to keep hijackers out of the cockpit.”
As a Small Group leader, you are like a pilot navigating your passengers to a specific landing place. You want the passengers to enjoy the journey; but you also need to keep hijackers out of the cockpit. Every Small Group is filled with a variety of different types of people. What happens when one or two group members dominate the conversation or derail the discussion? The rest of the group is likely going to check out – and over time, they will become less and less interested in attending. Learning to carefully and creatively deal with the different types of people in a Small Group is an important responsibility – and a skill any leader can develop.
Here are a few people you may have in your group.
8. The Christian Linguist: This person only answers in Christian lingo. Their answers may sound rooted in deep spiritual knowledge; but the lingo can also be misleading.
What to do: Ask this person to define the terms they are using. Even if this person is a seasoned believer, it is healthy to be challenged to clarify an answer. You can also ask this person to explain their answer as if they were telling someone who has never been to church, or to phrase their answer as if they were explaining it to a ten-year-old. Also, don’t assume that a deep sounding answer equals a deep relationship with God.
9. The Rabbit Hunter: This person loves to follow rabbit trails. They frequently take the conversation in a random direction, ignoring the question at hand in order to share a thought or ask another question unrelated to the discussion.
What to do: Keep your destination in mind. If you are veering off course, take control of the discussion and redirect by saying something like this, “Great question, but let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this question.” Or say, “Interesting thought, but let’s keep moving towards…”
10. The Introvert: This person does not willingly volunteer answers. They do not usually like to share their thoughts with the group.
What to do: That’s ok. Save easy non-personal questions for them. Ask them to read Scripture passages. Over time you may be able to move towards asking deeper questions. Also, some people feel more comfortable in one-on-one conversations than in group discussions. Look for ways to occasionally connect with this person outside of the usual group environment.
11. The Daydreamer: This person is not engaged in the discussion and often does not seem to be paying attention. They may look similar to “The Introvert”, but they are simply just checked out.
What to do: Be careful not to embarrass this person; but you can call on them to answer specific questions. Ask them to read a Scripture passage. Make frequent eye contact with them during the discussion.
12. The Fixer: This person loves to give advice and quick-fixes for other people’s problems or struggles.
What to do: It is likely better to address this issue in a conversation outside of your group discussion time. Affirm this person’s heart to help others; but explain that you are usually trying to lead the group to a specific concept or point of action. Let them know that you value and appreciate their input; but that you would like them to focus their responses during the discussion time to their own personal life and experience.
13. The Incorrect Answer: From time to time, someone is going to give a wrong answer. It can definitely be an awkward moment. This can come in a variety of forms including a simple incorrect guess, or a quirky opinion, or even an inaccurate interpretation of Scripture.
What do to: It is highly important to avoid embarrassing this person – but it is also important to make sure that the group isn’t left thinking you validated the incorrect answer. Handle this with discretion. You can often steer people back to the correct answer by not directly responding, but rather asking for other thoughts or responses to the question. Many times the additional responses will automatically correct the response. If the answer isn’t self-corrected by the group, let God’s Word be the final answer. Point them to Scripture – but do it with humility and love (not even a hint of arrogance or pride). Finally, if needed, you may need to discuss the answer with the person outside of the group meeting time.
14. The Interactive Participant: Yes, finally the one you are looking for! This person is engaged in the conversation but does not dominate. They are as interested in sharing as they are in listening to the opinions of others. They participate in the discussion, but do not feel the need to provide their “2 cents” on every single question. Hopefully, this describes many of the people in your Small Group. …And with some of the tips regarding the previous 13 personalities, you can shape more of your group into interactive participants.
What other personalities have you come across?