In my previous blog entry, I shared the first seven of the twenty tips for life-changing small group leadership (pages 74-82) from Michael Zigarelli‘s book entitled Freedom from Busyness published by LifeWay. As I said, I like the audio CD and the small group leader tips. In my next entry, we will look at the final third of Zigarelli’s list. Here is the middle third of Zigarelli’s list (in all capitals) with my commentary:
- HONE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS. Listening is not taught well in our society, but it is a skill that can be learned and will greatly benefit a small group leader. Giving your full attention to a person speaking whether one-on-one or in a group will change the depth of conversation considerably. Trust develops best when listening is done well. Look the speaker in the eyes. Avoid being distractions. Don’t think about your responses when you should be listening. Ask questions for better understanding. Be a revolutionary leader by how you listen!
- STAY ON POINT. Stay focused and work to keep the group’s attention focused. Help the group to continue movement in the direction toward the life application that needs to be addressed individually. Reign in rabbit chases quickly in a positive manner. Your attention here impacts the entire group!
- BE SURE THAT SCRIPTURE IS YOUR FILTER. I agree with Zigarelli here: “One would think we wouldn’t have to say such a thing.” It is easy for emotion, habit, past experiences, and worldly practices to impact our thinking and acting. We must act out of the transformed mind (Romans 12:2) that is sensitive to and impacted by God’s Word. We must not be afraid to be different as long as we are acting in obedience. Lead your group to listen to God before acting!
- LISTEN FOR SEGUES TO THE NEXT QUESTION. The best group facilitators are able to listen to the group dialogue about living out God’s Word to naturally lead into the next area of conversation/response to a question. Good preparation will perk your ears, and good listening skills will make you aware of segues. Don’t be frustrated when some dialogue takes more or less time than expected. When the corner needs to be turned even without a natural segue, your loving leadership will be appreciated.
- ECHO WHAT’S BEEN SAID. This is really both good listening and positive affirmation. Rick Howerton last week emphasized how important this skill is during the icebreaker time of a group session in order to increase later participation. When you echo what was said, group members know you heard them or were concerned enough about what they were saying to want to get it right. Your response will help the group listen to the individual even more, and there may be a higher likihood of a deeper dialogue as a result.
- CONNECT THE DOTS. Not only does a great facilitator need to connect his/her own dots but also those of group members as well. Keep the conversation flowing by calling attention to what has been said. Comparing or contrasting one person’s comments with another’s can take the group deeper. This helps the group think about what has said and its relevance.
- CUT OFF THE DOMINATORS. This is best done privately. Affirm them. Ask dominators to help you get more of the group involved by allowing at least three other people to participate before the dominators respond a second time. This may take more than one reminder but is best done early. Sitting next to the dominator in some cases will result in a reduction of domination. If necessary, say to the class that you want to hear from everyone before anyone responds the second time. Everyone, including the dominator, will benefit from your leadership here!
Which of these seven tip will require more work for you? Pray. Focus. Take small steps forward. Work on one at a time! Don’t be mediocre in your small group leadership. Be revolutionary!