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The Best Way to Get People to Talk More in Group Meetings

The amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place during the small group meeting is directly related to the amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place between meetings.

Let me say that again. The amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place during the small group meeting is directly related to the amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place between meetings.

I am asked all the time to teach on the small group meeting. The real question seems to be, “How can our group have a life-changing, biblically-driven, story-revealing conversation when our small group gets together?” I always go through a list of well-known, often written-about ideas:

  1. Be sure to do ice-breakers as they create a conversational environment.
  2. Be sure that as group members arrive you greet them well making them feel welcome and converse with them about their day and what is taking place in their lives so that you deal with those surface conversations before the real meeting even begins.
  3. You as a leader should model vulnerability and transparency so that the conversation goes past surface discussions into real life.
  4. Be sure you’re asking open-ended questions that lead to conversation rather than closed-ended questions that shut down the conversation, etc.

But in almost every instance, someone says, “I do all of that, but my group members still won’t talk.” My next question: “How much do you and your group members communicate between meetings?” In almost every instance, there is a revealing silence. I then state, as I did earlier in this post, “The amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place during the small group meeting is directly related to the amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place between meetings.”

Communicating between meetings can take place in multiple ways.

  • Twitter. If group members are tech-savvy, and each group member tweets ongoing, group members will know some of each other’s journey throughout the week. Being aware of life-stuff ongoing helps individuals continually sense some level of connection.
  • E-mail one another. E-mail has become an acceptable and appropriate way to share quick thoughts, ideas, opinions and to pass on jokes, videos that capture our attention, and to communicate prayer requests. In most instances, group members will respond in some way. A warning: If your group is made up of 20-somethings or younger, they may see e-mail as an old and slow way of communicating.
  • Text messaging. Texting between friends is an amazing way to pass on prayer requests, group member’s opinions about a movie you’re considering seeing, and to just ask another group member how their day has gone. Connection at any level between meetings is better than none at all.

But the best way to make the conversation all it should be when your group gets together is to hear one another’s voices via telephone or, even better, face-to-face. Let your group know where and when you’re going to be eating dinner out and invite them to join you. Invite group members to your home for a night of Wii bowling or playing cards or to watch the last episode of your favorite TV show. Find ways—and utilize them—to connect with group members between meetings. This effort between group meetings will greatly enhance the group experience itself.

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rhowerton@churchleaders.com'
Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.