For those who lead small groups and Sunday School classes, understanding the group dynamic is essential for healthy, successful growth. To have a thriving group, leaders should consistently assess their methods and adjust when necessary. Here are a few things the participants in your group want you to know, but may be afraid to tell you:
1. Discussion helps me understand and connect with the session.
It may appear that your group simply wants you to read through the lesson. It is comfortable, no one has to say anything, and no one has to be vulnerable with the group. The reality is that people need to connect with others. Through discussion, the participants are invited into the conversation. When group members are able to voice their opinion or share a story about what God has done in their lives, the session moves from being an exchange of information to lives being shared.
2. Surface level answers don’t help me.
“God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” This is a bumper sticker I once had on my car. Seriously. While I do ultimately believe that bumper sticker, I also now understand that it doesn’t offer real help to those in the midst of a storm in their lives. When people face real problems they need real answers. Sometimes that means digging deep into the Word to see what God has to say. Sometimes it means landing on a point and staying there at the expense of the rest of the material you want to cover. The win isn’t getting through all of the material; the win is seeing a life transformed by God’s Word. As a leader, always be willing to gauge where you group is at and press into the Word at the right times.
3. My interest span will always trump my attention span.
When it comes to attention spans, it’s easy for leaders to claim that people just don’t “give you” more than a specific length of time. The truth is, when someone is interested the attention span is trumped by the interest span. Every leader should ensure that the session is interesting by adjusting a few key things:
- Lead the session in such a way that the group can connect with the material. If there is no connection between what is being taught and where the people are at, they will tire of it quickly.
- Interaction is key. Use discussion questions wisely. When things seem to be getting slow with the session, move to a discussion question or activity so the group experiences a change of pace.
- Prepare well. This may seem like a no-brainer, but the truth is a well-prepared leader will almost always lead the session better. By having a solid grasp of the material, the leader knows when to make shifts and take the group where they need to go.
Every group is different, but many elements remain the same. Work through these three things in your next session and determine if they may help make your time together stronger.