By Robert Noland
One of the most beautiful aspects of the body of Christ is the gamut of personalities we find in our churches. Yet when we place a handful of people into a small group with the goal of being close and intimate, the dynamics can be challenging for a leader.
Extroverts want to talk and introverts don’t. Unchecked, this tendency can create a predictable pattern of who is going to engage and who will come to sit and listen.
In an ongoing small group of diverse personalities, members can learn to get out of their comfort zones and be sensitive to others. The “give and take” of sharing is an often-missed blessing in the dynamics of a group.
Here are nine truths to consider in working with various personalities in a small group.
1. The goal of every Christian is for Christ to rule over our personalities. We should never excuse our behavior with comments such as, “Well, you know me, that’s just the way I am” or “I’ve just always been that way.”
2. Extroverts must learn to listen and give space in conversations for introverts. Most extroverts have the talking part of communication down pat; it’s the art of active listening that must continually be honed.
3. Introverts must learn to look for opportunities to speak. The tendency of “talking oneself out of talking” must be replaced with knowing when something valuable needs to be presented. Introverts should set goals such as, “Tonight, I’m going to add at least one thought to the conversation.”
4. Christ should be invited to be the filter over an extrovert’s mouth and the prompter on an introvert’s mouth.
5. A key to healthy group conversations is making sure everyone has the opportunity to share, and everyone is respected. Group leaders should pay careful attention to the dynamics of the group and note if only a few people are dominating the discussion.
Leaders can help balance the discussion time by intentionally asking introverts to share their thoughts. If someone in the group continually interrupts or dominates the conversation, speak to him or her privately after the meeting.
Ask this person’s help in getting others involved in the conversation. Many times people don’t realize they’re talking too much.
6. Silence doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t engaged. Introverts process things internally. If a group member is quiet, it could mean he or she is contemplating the Scripture passage or thinking about how someone’s story is similar to his or her own.
Watch for other clues to their engagement—eye contact with people who are speaking and reading along in their study guide or Bible.
7. As a small group grows in spiritual maturity and mutual respect, a supernatural connection usually sets in, causing members to allow and encourage each one to speak up and be heard.
8. When Jesus is the common denominator of a group, His Spirit can become the Facilitator. Then the sharing of hearts in a small group will be an amazing reflection of the deep unity Christ provides us.
9. If you feel challenged by the diverse personalities in your group, take a long look at the 12 disciples of Jesus and the eclectic assortment of people He chose. From that small group sprang the very church you serve today!
ROBERT NOLAND, a freelance writer in Franklin, Tennessee, has been in ministry for more than 30 years.