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Shut up! Speak up!

The leader of a small group is more a facilitator than a teacher or preacher. He or she should not dominate the discussion but rather be adept at asking questions and guiding the conversation to help the group discover truths about God, His Word and one another. Facilitating a group of people with diverse personalities in this manner comes with a variety of challenges. One of the most common obstacles is how to handle the overly talkative person as well as the person who almost never speaks.

Mr. Talks-a-lot

Most small groups will have someone in them who enjoys sharing their thoughts at all times.

While this constant involvement shows they are paying attention, it can deter from getting input from others. As a facilitator of healthy communication in the group, the leader can deal with this in a few simple ways. Since eye contact encourages response, it is best to sit next to the talkative person. Also, directing questions to specific people other than the talkative person may be helpful. I also recommend speaking with the talkative person outside of group time to thank them for their active involvement in the group and their willingness to share but ask them to help you get others involved. This will help them see the importance of everyone sharing and give them an important task during meetings.

Miss Quiet as a Church Mouse

In contrast to the talkative person, most groups have at least one person who rarely shares aloud with the group. Although this person may just be processing all they are hearing during the meeting, this disengagement may mean they are in their own little world or just uncomfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. As with the talkative person, ideas for the facilitator would include sitting across from this person to increase eye to eye contact and to ask questions directly to this person. Be careful to ask simple questions at first, as this person may need to grow more confident with the group members. Make sure your responses always compliment or acknowledge the sharer even if their response is brief or difficult to comprehend. A "thanks for sharing that" or "nice!" goes a long way to build confidence. Of course, getting to know the people and showing you care will also foster confidence during meeting times. Spend time outside of meetings and discover who they are and what gets them talking!

The task of a small group facilitator is challenging but rewarding. When all members of a group feel comfortable sharing thoughts and ideas while allowing and valuing the participation of everyone, the group grows closer to each other and to God. Relationships blossom and truth is discovered. Successful facilitators encourage this healthy and balanced participation in a natural and respectful manner, and definitely not by saying "shut up!"

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