7 Small Group Characters

On Monday evening we had the privilege of having Peter Hayden, from Chessington Evangelical Church, do some training with our small group leaders. Peter’s been looking after small group ministry for over a decade so has great experience. His session was practical and wise, and we’re so thankful to him.

One thing he looked at with us was the ‘small group cast of characters.’ Being aware of the different characters in our groups can help us understand and address varying group dynamics. The ‘cast’ are as follows:

  • The spectator – they won’t contribute much at all, but will sit and watch, taking it all in. We need to draw them out with simple direct requests – eg. ‘would you read’, or get them talking in pairs.
  • The dictator – they dominate discussion and love the sound of their own voice. We need to find ways to encourage them to let others contribute.
  • The sidetracker – always has a red herring to throw into the mix. Some of these are worth pursuing; others will need to be left for another time. The skill is in knowing which is which.
  • The joker – always quick with a gag; slow to get serious. This person is a real asset energizing the group. At the same time we need to be careful they don’t distract everyone else. A quiet word may be in order.
  • The professor – knows everything about, well, mostly everything. Again, can be useful, but keep bringing the study back to practical application, and don’t let the prof hide behind the language of Zion.
  • The controversialist – someone who has a hobby horse, or who likes debate for debate’s sake. Robust discussion is good, but make sure we don’t end up with more heat than light. Perhaps some topics need to be addressed outside of the group meeting, one to one.
  • The chatterbox – tend to ramble and can be quite random. These people are good at breaking awkward silence. We just need to step in to help someone else have a go.

Peter helped us see how each of these characters can bring something good to the group, and how their strengths can also be weaknesses. He also gave us loads more ideas on how to best help and utilize these characters, which we don’t have space for here.

But then Peter dropped the bomb. He asked, ‘And which one of these are you?’ Are we aware of which role we play in a group – are we a chatterbox, dictator, joker, or professor. And how is that helping and harming the group.

It’s a really helpful little tool – one I know Peter wouldn’t mind me sharing. Do chip in if you think there any characters missing here?

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