Sometimes in small group settings, people who are quieter, more shy or simply new to the small group environment might feel uncomfortable participating in the discussion. So they end up simply sitting there and rarely if ever sharing anything. It’s important to remember that different personality types are just not going to be as vocal during the discussion, and that’s OK. Yet you want to make sure that everyone feels welcome and empowered to share as they’re comfortable. Here some tips on encouraging participation from quieter people:
Create a positive, affirming environment
Make sure that people know you’re not just fishing for some specific or correct answer during the discussion. Do this by being positive and affirming as much as possible as people give answers. Certainly there will be times to correct a blatantly harmful answer, but this should be a last resort. If people feel worried that they will be corrected for an imperfect answer, they will be very hesitant to respond.
After asking a question, say something like, “We’ve heard a lot from Bob and Sally tonight, what do some of the rest of you think?,” or, “On this one, let’s go around and have everyone give a quick answer.” You don’t want to force people to speak long if they’re not comfortable, but barring the most shy people, usually people are OK sharing something short if everyone else is.
Break the ice
Make sure that you spend sufficient time each meeting warming up the group and making everyone feel comfortable. If the group is larger, break up into smaller groups to answer warm-up questions. For example, if you have 12-15 people in a group, have people break into groups of 3-4 with the people sitting next to them to discuss the warm-up question. Often people will feel more comfortable sharing in a smaller setting.
Talk to them privately
Sometimes people just need a little personal encouragement. If you notice that a person is consistently quiet in a group, talk to them in private and let them know that you’d love for them to share when they feel comfortable. Again, be sensitive to different personality types and don’t make them feel forced to share, but let them know that you would value their insights. Reassure them that it’s OK to share even if they’re not completely sure of themselves. Another tip is to encourage them to look ahead to the questions and to think about things ahead of time. This will help them feel more prepared to share. Some people just need more time to process before they’re ready to speak.
The group is enriched when everyone contributes as they learn and process God’s truth. Don’t settle for hearing from the same few people week after week. Help your quieter members to share.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- When you’re not leading the discussion, are you more inclined to speak up or sit back and listen? Explain.
- What are some reasons why people don’t share their thoughts in the group discussion?
- Think of some ways to discourage quiet people from speaking up.
- Think of some ways to encourage quiet people to talk.
- Why is it worth it to make an effort to encourage quiet people to share in the group?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.