The beauty of leading a small group is getting to see it grow throughout the years. But, getting started can be rough especially if you have that one kid who talks and talks and talks. At first you like him or her because they take care of the awkward silence. You think, “Awesome, I have someone participating and I don’t have to do all the talking.”
Then, you begin to notice that they are the ONLY student talking, which prevents the other ones from chiming in. You also begin to notice your patience wear thin because not only do they answer every question but they begin to talk for what seems like hours. You are tempted to yell, “SHUT UP!” but common sense tells you that wouldn’t go over well. You don’t want to lose the group; yet, avoid embarrassing the teen. What do you do?
Meet Beforehand – Grab them before small group and be honest with them. Let them know you appreciate their sharing; however, you want to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak. Be prepared because they might feel a little insulted by your confrontation. Telling them to listen more and speak less might sound like they don’t have anything wise to contribute; therefore, make a plan to follow up after group.
Sit Next To Them – By sitting next to the talkers you are able to give them physical cues if they are talking too much. Placing a hand on their shoulder is a subtle way of interrupting them. You can also whisper to them encouragement if they are getting anxious by letting others speak.
Assign Questions – Talkers talk because they either feel like they always have something to contribute or they are afraid of silence. To give them an out to their urges and fears assign questions to the rest of the group. Instead of having anyone chime in, give the first response to someone specific.
Follow Up – Either right after the group or the next day meet up with the talker to reflect on their behavior. Affirm them with what they did well; ask them their opinion and then address where improvement is necessary. Because the group is fresh on everyone’s mind, you can point to specific examples of when they listened and when they dominated the conversation.
Some people will be talkers for life; however, the more the group gets to know them the pressure won’t fall on you to give others a chance to speak. The more you check-in and communicate with the talker the less you’ll have to take the steps mentioned above. Just be persistent with reaching out and leading the group. Again, small group dynamics is a growing process.
How do you deal with talkers?
Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.