Small Group facilitating is truly a blessing especially when you have a few tools to manage the challenges!
Today I’ll share some insights on keeping a balance
in voices around the table.
When you bring together many personalities even to discuss spiritual matters; there are bound to be situations that need to be addressed. Some participants may be more chatty than others; leading people sitting around the table to feel bullied or left out of conversations. Sometimes opinions can be shared with gentleness and love; other times a more staunch or heavy approach is taken. Although we are all one body in Christ that doesn’t mean the parts will always play well together. In order to keep the group from becoming imbalanced or “sick” – facilitators need to be proactive in establishing group expectations. Furthermore, leaders need to be aware of the groups personalities and communication styles. A prayer for sensitivity and wisdom to the Holy Spirit before each meeting never hurt! The key to keeping the focus on Christ is to remember the reason we’ve come together – and to be ready with many tactics and techniques because there is really no ONE way to insure a friendly, spiritually fruitful group!
Keeping the Group on Point:
- Pray before each session – before you arrive, during (especially with the others) and after!
- Keep your eyes on the group. Watch for body language cues – someone who never looks up or has their arms crossed. Be particularly mindful of reactions to what is being said or shared. Is the person who was once fully engaged suddenly distant or distracted. You may choose to address issues on the spot – without embarrassing or calling anyone out; or make a note to check in with them after the sharing.
- A great ‘trick’ to assuring even vocal participation – is to keep hash marks discretely on your own study material. If Joy has shared on every questions but Sam has yet to speak; this may require you to be more active in the conversation. In this situation, I would purposefully make eye contact with Sam on the next question – even giving a gentle encouraging nod if appropriate. Joy’s enthusiasm and desire to engage can be utilized in recruiting her assist you in getting others to share. Be sure to remind her that we are not there to make anyone uncomfortable; or call people out – but perhaps her even giving a few moments before answering might give a more reserved person time to gather their thoughts and/or courage to speak.
- Giving reading assignments and when possible questions ahead of time can also help ‘even the speaking field’. As mentioned above, some people by nature are quick to process and share while others need more time to digest the material and formulate answers. It is also super important to be aware that neither is a better way – the person taking time to respond isn’t less inept in spiritual matters. It is all about personality and temperament types; being able to meet each person for who they are – will bring INCREDIBLE blessings to your small group meetings!
Dealing with the Derailer
Lastly, I want to touch on the inevitable inclusion of the “derailer” . This person can actually change for meeting to meeting – all depending on the subject and their current life circumstances. First, you have to be clear what your objectives are – support or spiritual. It is not that the group can’t ever engage in that personal level of discussion but if it overtakes each meeting; especially when participants are not signing up for that – then it can become toxic to the group dynamics. Second, there are times when you will need to appear like the heartless meanie to keep the focus on Christ and not on individual members.
There are a few ways to handle this situation:
- You can allow the person to share for a few extra moments (particularly if it is there first time opening up on this issue – especially if IT IS relevant).
- If it is close to a break time -find a natural break (though it may not necessarily the end of what they have to say) and call for snack or potty break. Then either you (or another member) can have a more personal conversation with them – so they feel heard and valued without the derailing.
- When the behavior becomes habitual and chronic; a more stern approach will be needed. That is always a discussion away from the meeting; and covered in lots of prayer! I have seen people leave groups for many reasons, with the ‘free therapy’ trap being a most frequent cause. **For the record: The other is when they feel under attack every time they share – be cautious of those exchanges as well.
Have any further questions or concerns regarding facilitating a small group faith sharing or bible study? Feel free to email me -and I will address it in an upcoming blog post!
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016