In my experience, the most consistent problem in most small groups has to do with one person doing all the talking. And many times this problem goes unchecked or the person who does all the talking repeatedly ignores the “small group rules” or warnings or other obvious suggestions implying, “Shut your mouth and stop talking!”
Seriously, this is a significant problem within relational groups because people already don’t feel like they are understood or that people listen to them. It’s kind of the standard default setting for most people. So when you throw them into a situation where they are clearly ignored or not given an opportunity to voice their thoughts or concerns or questions or problems, the small group will quickly lose its momentum.
When it comes down to it, there are a number of reasons why people don’t like being in a small group dominated by one person and why people should practice the art of listening over and above the “art” of doing all of the talking. Here’s a variety of reasons:
(1) One of the main character traits that people associate with those who do all the talking is pride. People either think that you think you know it all or they think you are so self-absorbed that you don’t care about anyone else or their opinions. Either way, the lowest common denominator assumed equates to pride. The person who does all the talking effectively removes themselves from being able to actually encourage, teach, bless, share, or help others. No one’s listening.
(2) You can’t speak on issues that you aren’t aware of. That’s a pretty obvious statement, but it’s true. If you are doing all of the talking, you can’t hear what others are saying. So let’s assume that you have it all together (you don’t, but for the sake of argument), you’re missing tons of opportunities to minister to people if you aren’t listening to what their needs are. And you can’t help them if you don’t know what areas to address. That’s why there needs to be a healthy balance between listening and talking, with an emphasis on listening because it’s so often ignored.
(3) You are messed up too and you need to be built up, encouraged, and taught. Seriously, don’t miss out on the opportunity to be positively shaped by other people. Their can have some very keen observations and helpful advice on how you can become a better follower of Jesus.
(4) Talking too much destroys the dynamics that make a small group effective and fun. If you’ve been involved in small group Bible studies, then you will know what I’m talking about. Small groups are most valued and most effective and most enjoyable when there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone to participate. People don’t give up other activities and drive across town to sit and listen to someone ramble on with all of the answers and all the experience. No, people do not enjoy that. Rather, people will give up other activities and drive across town to gather with a group of people who are interested in participating together with the goal of mutual edification. Mutual edification, not the one-person team type of edification.
(5) Spend more time talking to God, and less time talking to others. In fact, make that a personal goal. I’ve found that if I do more listening, I can actually have more to talk to God about. Set your goal to get more to talk to the Lord about by listening to the struggles and problems that others have!
Don’t underestimate how destructive the person who talks too much can be upon your small group. Clarify the purpose of the small group from day one with some ground rules and correct it the moment it raises it’s ugly head!
What are some other reasons to avoid having a “too much talking” type of culture in your small group? Would love to read your thoughts…
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.