Top 10 Ways to Stifle Discussion in Your Small Group

As you lead your small group, use these 10 simple tips for suppressing  sharing from members:

  1. Infuse words like regeneration, justification, and eschatology into the discussion as much as possible.
  2. Interject names such as Polycarp, Bonhoeffer and, yes, even Warren and Lucado.
  3. Be serious all the time. Since you are studying God’s Holy Word, there is no time for fun or frivolity! 
  4. Don’t allow people to share their feelings. Focus on facts. Feelings have no place in Bible study. 
  5. Do most of the talking. Study up and share everything you learned about your topic. This is what it means to teach.
  6. If no one responds to one of your questions within five seconds, answer it yourself and move on to the next question. 
  7. When participants answer with a wrong response (because there is always one correct response), be sure to shame, correct, and dismiss them. (Corollary: Remember that as the leader you are always right.)
  8. Ask 10 or more discussion questions (the more the better). To do so, you must set a limit of one brief (20 seconds or less) response per question. 
  9. Focus your eyes on your Bible and study guide. Read questions and commentary as much as possible. After asking a question, look down at your books to see what the next question is. 
  10. Be in complete control of the discussion. Don’t allow any conversation that is not part of your own meeting agenda. You must set stringent boundaries with group members. 

OK, so that’s my Top 10 Ways to Squash Discussion. I’m sure I’ve missed some. What would you add? 

For more about facilitating discussion, see:
   The Incredible Opportunity of “I Don’t Know”
   Learn How to Lead a Small Group Discussion from Jim Lehrer

Author: Michael Mack

Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

5 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Stifle Discussion in Your Small Group”

  1. Haha, this post took me back to my first experience leading a small group. I was so wound up thinking I'd have to teach a class. Thankfully, relational dynamica saved the day and I didn't get stuck trying to be the expert. I couldn't imagine going back to that frenetic sort of feeling. Group is too good to be a class!

  2. It's funny, Joe, how so many leaders start this way. I guess we put way too much pressure on ourselves to "teach," but the good thing is that the Holy Spirit takes control, and we learn some things along the way!

  3. LOL Mike! This is great, thanks! Laughter is a good medicine…I sadly attended a group a few year ago where the leader talked for 45 minutes straight every meeting. I sadly didn't have the heart to tell him he was doing it COMPLETELY wrong.

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