Here’s a couple of tips to start:
An important part of facilitating helpful discussion is an awareness of what’s going on in the room. Do people look happy, stressed, engaged, tired, sad, etc. If you can discern the mood you can adjust your approach to help people regardless of how they are feeling.
We want each of our groups to have a pastoral care contact to oversee the Pastoral Care in each group. We don’t expect that person to care for everyone, but rather to make sure everyone is cared for. This person can access Pastoral Care from the central HUB at Church, when the needs become bigger than what the group can handle. To check out resources at Follow you can visit our Need Help page on the website which is follow.church You will find many resources there that can help assist including Meals Ministry, recommended counsellors, Debt Crisis Relief, Food Banks, Care Packs, etc.
If you are from a different Church talk to your Pastor about the best way to find support.
When it comes to group dynamics there is likely to be some more challenging group members and situations and so let’s look at three of them.
What do I do when...
We’ve probably all experienced this. At first you may think it's not a big deal, but soon it becomes a real problem. After several meetings, some people in the group are clearly getting annoyed. Finally, one by one, people just stop coming to the group. What has happened is the talker has sucked all the oxygen out of the group. They have crowded everyone else out.
Here’s a few quick tips:
At the start of each small group gathering, communicate the importance of everyone having the opportunity to share.
If the dominant person doesn’t adjust their behaviour to allow sharing for all group members, gently pull them aside at an appropriate time and reinforce the importance of all people having an opportunity to share. Ask them to commit to allowing that space.
Dominant personalities often associate eye contact from the discussion leader as a green light to talk. They may even interpret it as a request from you to share what's on their minds. Therefore, minimising eye contact is an effective method for handling group members who talk too much. To avoid offending them, invite them to sit next to you, or engage in conversation prior to group and then naturally enter the room and sit down together.
If the dominant person continues to dominate you will need to be more assertive. You can raise your hand and say things such as: "That's a really good point." Immediately look at another person in the group, direct your hand toward them, and ask, "What do you think?" Use language like “it would be nice to hear from someone we haven’t yet heard from”. If the dominant person interrupts someone who had started to share, hold up a hand and say loudly, "Sorry, X, so-and-so was talking first." Then turn to the person who was interrupted, direct your hand toward them and say, "Now, what were you saying?"
This way you will get other people involved in the conversation.
If all else fails, remind the dominant person of your previous discussion and the need for them to speak less.
If people aren’t willing to share in a group, it is often because they don’t feel safe or comfortable within it. By building relationship outside of the group you will increase the likelihood of them sharing within the group. This could be you or you could ask another group member to connect with them.
Position yourself in the circle where this is possible. This is the opposite to the dominant group member because you want to encourage participation. Eye contact helps you to give them permission to share.
If a group member is unwilling to share, you probably don’t want to start by asking their view on the Second Coming. Perhaps start with something simple or personal, like asking the group to share one thing they have done that week.
When a shy person does answer, it is important to affirm them and thank them for sharing.
If people know they have been missed, they will know they are cared for. A Follow up phone call only takes a couple of minutes but can mean the world to someone. This can be done by the Group leader, the PC contact or it can be delegated to a group member.
If people aren’t regularly showing up ask the question why? Is the group disorganised, boring or dysfunctional? Is the space uncomfortable? Are you unprepared? Are people welcomed warmly? Your group may need to change the way it functions if people aren’t interested in coming, so be honest with your assessment of the group and be willing to change if necessary.
To supplement this base training, we will in time release more upskilling videos addressing some of the more challenging parts of leading a small group.
It is a great privilege journeying in a community centred around Christ and my prayer is that you will lead confidently and passionately in your small group.
Let me leave you with some words of wisdom from the writer of Hebrews: "(23) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (24) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, (25) not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."