Small groups are made for people to share, explore and discuss their lives before god and each other. group participation of every member is crucial.
In order that everyone feels a mutual commitment to the group, they all must feel they are equally important to what happens in the small group meetings. Whenever a few people monopolize the group, or when a few people tend to sit it out and not participate, the group will not meet its full potential.
Here are some suggestions to address these issues.
Dealing with over talkers, people who disagree, and always-right members
In dealing with the overly talkative people, model your own desire to hear from others. Ask, “Thanks for your input, what does someone else think?” Encourage everyone that we need silence after some of the questions or sharing to simply reflect. Again, model this. If it doesn't help, you may need to speak to the individual(s) in private, sharing your concern and giving ways to help include others. When you ask them to help you draw others in, they may feel a sense of value and become less talkative. Sometimes people’s insecurities won’t let them get past the need to talk. You will have to use wisdom, concern and counsel as to how far you let this go before asking someone not to share until you call on them. Talk with your coach for additional ideas.
People who Disagree
In dealing with those who always disagree, do your best to give them honest feedback in the group. You might ask one who is constantly in disagreement with the group or with you, "What exactly causes your hesitation?" or "What would it take to get around this objection?" or “We will just have to agree to disagree.” This may where you meet one-on-one to address the issue. Our position should be from...“help me understand your heart” or “it seems that there is a pattern where you often disagree with what we are saying, help me understand what you are thinking or feeling.” If the individual is unable to self-regulate, you may have to ask the person to not attend your group as long as they are disruptive.
To the one who always claims he/she is right, put the focus back on the subject, or the passage, or the group. Avoid arguing right and wrong with the person. Let the facts clarify. Help the group to see the "right" person's frame of reference by asking, "In what circumstances might John's interpretation hold true?"
Finally, if the person insists on being argumentative or divisive, seek counsel from your coach and then meet with them privately for boundaries and discipline.
Dealing with quiet members and/or superficial sharing
The issue of the quiet member(s) will always be with us in small groups. Sometimes people do not share because the questions are too hard, or we run through them so rapidly that they don’t have time to respond. The leader and the group that does not handle silence well, jumping in too quickly, does not give others the chance to respond. To help this problem, direct some low risk questions to the quiet ones, or maybe go around the room, stopping for each one to share, and not moving on (unless they pass) until they have had ample time to participate. Never force someone to respond to a question.
When superficial sharing becomes a point of struggle in a group, it can mean that the leader is not setting a good example of how this is done, or that the leader and/or the group overreacts (verbally or non-verbally) to honest sharing. Being open, specific and transparent as a leader will model the depth you desire for your small group. Be open to meet one-to-one outside the group for sharing and prayer with those who may live at the surface. Sometimes the "issue of not sharing" is because the individual does not feel accepted or safe in the group and/or particularly accepted by the leader. Valuing these people takes time, grace and patience.
Let’s remember that if we don’t address these issues where they exist, the health of the group suffers. It is our responsibility to help model the healthiest environment we possibly can for people to engage for growth.