Leading a Home Group: How to deal with Discussion Controllers
We are joyful that people want to participate in a home group. They are the best environment where 80% of the church can grow through the spiritual stages of infant, child, young adult and parent. None of the stages is more important than the others. However, Jesus in the Great Commission wants us to become disciplers of all the nations, which means becoming a spiritual parent. In the joy of home group, there are often people who seem to control the conversation or do most of the talking.
Talking is a good thing. However, it can prevent the others from growing through the sharpening process. So what do you do when it seems one person is talking a whole lot more than others? What do you say that doesn’t shut down the whole group? What concerns should a leader have so that the “spirit” of the conversation isn’t quenched?
First, pray that you are being objective in your observations. Make sure it’s not a personality conflict you have with the person and you would rather not hear from that person as much.
Secondly, thank them for their thoughts. Affirmation is important for almost all people. Some talkers could care less about affirmation, but your affirmation is important to other less talkative (even timid) people who more easily shut down. In your affirmation of the talker, turn quickly to others and look for their response to affirm them.
Thirdly, based on the thought expressed by the controlling person, ask, “What do the rest of you think?” or “Are there any other thoughts?” Your purpose is to convey that others have an equal say and importance in contributing to the conversation.
Fourthly, get together outside of the group and ask the person how the group is going. They will likely respond the group is going great (because they get to talk so much). Ask them how the contributions of others in the group are helping everyone learn and sharpen each other (Prov. 27:17). They may not realize others are not talking very much because they don’t have very much opportunity to contribute time wise. Ask the controlling person if the others have helpful things to contribute and ask them if they can remember any of their contributions. Do not do this to put them on the spot, or to feel bad, but to try to get them to think through the situation and take ownership of what seems to be going on, much like the prophet Nathan did with David in 2 Samuel 12.
Fifthly, talk to them afterward to help them see that the discussion is meant for everyone. Affirm their desire to participate. They may not realize how much they are talking or controlling. Some talkers will humbly be much more observant. Some may deny they talk very much. Some others may react and not do any talking for the next few weeks. And still others may go into hibernation, because they are embarrassed that the leader felt like he/she needed to say something. Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians is pertinent related to different kinds of people, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thess. 5:14)
Finally, if nothing seems to work, help them see they are not letting others talk. The group is more important than hurting the feelings of an individual. The group is more important than allowing one person to control by talking so much. The individual person must realize, “Life is not about you.” It’s about the Lord and considering others more important than self.
You the leader are responsible to help all the people. You the humble and bold leader are God’s representative to raise all people to the holiness of God. All the people will need to grow, especially you the leader. God calls you the leader to be diligent to be His agent of helping others. Leading is your opportunity to grow.