IMPROPER OR HIGHLY OPINIONATED ANSWERS
When an improper or highly opinionated answer has been given, you can remedy it by asking, “How did someone else see this?”
Hearing from many learners then makes room for the improper answer to become just one more opinion.
Your priority is to create a safe environment where learners are free to share and learn from one another. Spending too much time talking about it afterward, or trying to fix it, actually draws more attention and gives it more weight. And, it sets up the expectation that when an answer is given, it's up for an analysis afterward - which is not the goal!
If you believe that what was said was potentially detrimental to the group, you can say something simple like...
“That’s interesting, I’ve never heard that before - have you found something specific in the Bible that tells us that?" (or...)
"Where did you learn that?"
That way, you point back to the Bible, show that (most likely) there is no validity to the person’s statement, but also protect the safety by asking instead of telling. Asking where a person learned something also helps everyone contextualize the response, hopefully showing that it is just something that specific person learned at a specific time and place. It's not necessarily the truth!
If it’s something that you think needs to be corrected quickly, it is a great opportunity to have a discussion about it another time, maybe over coffee or lunch. It’s actually a good chance to initiate a deeper relationship outside of group!
Conflicting opinions are certain to arise in groups where opinions are being voiced. It happens, so in the event that differing opinions arise, you can fall back on statements like…
- “It’s good to know we can disagree and that we don’t expect cookie-cutter answers here.”
- “I’m glad we have a group where we can feel free to disagree sometimes, don’t you?”
- “I can see where both of you are coming from and I appreciate your positions.”
WHEN SOMEONE BREAKS "THE RULES"
The small group statement we read is essentially a list of ground rules. And inevitably, someone will break those ground rules. We believe that no perfect people allowed, so it we can know that it’s coming.
Never be afraid to call it out if someone clearly cross-talks, sermonizes, tries to fix someone else, etc.
Do it quickly and with an understanding tone, always believing the best about the person. Point back to the statement, and let it be. You can follow up afterward to explain more or make sure that person understands what happened.
Pointing out in group as it happens is hard to do, but builds trust and safety in the group. Your group knows that you are looking out for their best, and that you are willing to protect them.
We all have weeks where we need to floor for longer than usual. But what about when that week seems to come every week for some of our members? We never want to stifle people and stop them from feeling safe to share. But, we want to make sure that everyone in the group has a chance to share, and that the long-talker doesn't drain everyone else and prevent others from sharing.
Here are some helpful ways to respond to the monologuer in your group:
Sit next to the monologuer.
By sitting here, you'll end up making more eye contact with those less likely to share, and less eye contact with the one who you know has plenty to share. You'll naturally be inviting your more timid members to talk more, and you'll naturally diminish the opportunities for the monologuer to jump in right away.
Ask others to share by name.
You usually know who in your group is comfortable sharing, but not the first to pipe up. Try to not make anyone feel uncomfortable by calling them out when they are not ready, or not used to talking (especially first). But this is a good way to ensure others get the chance to talk.
Dodge the Prayer Request pitfall before it happens.
Sometimes this is the time when the monologues flow most freely. You can head this off at the pass by...
encouraging everyone to share in a minute or less
having them summarize their request in just a few words
intentionally leaving just 5 minutes for this section (and making that clear), and providing a way for everyone to easily pray for each other throughout the week
asking for only personal prayer requests, so that it's not open to a second-uncle-twice-removed with a stubbed toe...
Once they've started talking... look for the springboard moment.
If you see the monologue coming... there will be most likely be a moment where one train of thought ends, and another begins. Use that moment or brief pause to thank them for sharing and validate what they said by saying, "I'd really love to hear about some other experiences/ideas/thoughts like that one." Something that springboards the conversation forward instead of letting it get stuck!
Privately ask the monologuer for his/her help.
It's not a sin to talk too much. It's usually not done with any bad intent or because of pride or narcissism. So in a private moment outside of group time, you can pull him/her aside and keep in mind these ideas:
I'm not saying this because you're in trouble, or because you've done something wrong.
I don't want you to stop sharing. I just want you to share in the most effective way possible.
I need your help encouraging others to share openly like you do.
You can help me by asking others in the group about their experiences, listening well, and watching the time on your own sharing.