Small Group Challenges and Solutions

Small Group Challenges and Solutions

1) The Dominant Member
• Don’t sit opposite them - sit next to them.
• Politely invite questions from others: “Thanks for sharing. Let’s hear from some others too.”
• Look directly at and gesture toward the other guests.
• If you absolutely must, interrupt with a positive comment: Yes, I agree! Does anyone else feel that way too?
• Talk to them privately after the session if necessary.

2) The Eager Christian who ‘shares’ and uses the Bible too much
• Provide them with the ‘Considerations for Christians’ handout (in private).
• Ask them to explain their answers: “That’s a great answer for a Christian, but how would you respond to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible?”
• Clarify texts and terminology used (e.g. Bible, Scripture & Word of God are all the same book).
• Express the fears/reactions group members may be experiencing.
• Talk to them privately after the session (or by phone) and affirm their knowledge, explain the Alpha philosophy and ask them to help draw people out.
• Or ask if they would be interested in leading a Bible study instead (more advanced than Alpha).

3) The Quiet Member
• Talk to them at meal times and ask general interest questions such as, ‘What do you hope to get out of the course?’ ‘What sorts of questions do you have?’ ‘Are we meeting your expectations?’
• Make use of a comment or question they told you at supper and ask them if they would share it.
• Affirm them and their contributions.
• If they comment, ask them for more info to encourage them. Use easy, open-ended questions only.

4) The Quiet Group
• Be provocative, ask questions that will evoke emotion or strong opinion.
• Have an icebreaker every week.
• Don’t be afraid of silence; let them think about your question.
• Ask if your questions make sense.
• Avoid right / wrong questions or ‘threatening’ questions.
• Ask questions that allow or encourage ‘negative responses, e.g. ‘What do you find hardest about praying?’ ‘What is the thing you fear most about sharing your faith?’

5) The Chaotic Group (off the topic)
• Keep just one conversation going at once. The co-leader or helper can help keep the attention to the one speaking. (And ultimately everyone is aware who the group facilitator is).
• Address topics that are raised, but don’t stay off the topic too long.
• Suggest related reading material and/or websites that might be helpful.
• Talk to specific people after the Alpha session to make sure they feel they’ve been heard.
• Be aware of topics coming up later in the course.
• Have fun, don’t shut down every unrelated topic.
• Aim to find out the fear or need behind their questions.

6) The group or person who concentrates on personal problems
• Be interested, sympathise, listen, pray for them (at end?) but … after a while steer the conversation to the topic or toward others.
• Offer to meet with them and talk to them during the week, or suggest a visit from the Pastor.
• Direct them to counselling or a felt-needs group (if your church doesn’t offer one, do some research and find out if there is a local church that does provide a support group that might be helpful to them).
• Don’t sit opposite them. (See #1)
• Ask them if you can share their personal issue with the Alpha Prayer Team (either anonymously or first name only). Let them know they are cared for.

7) The Group Project Person (person who becomes a group ‘project’)
• Deflect attention from the person to their question / issue. Re-phrase the question if necessary.
• Find ways to affirm his/her contributions. Don’t let them always get ‘corrected’ or ‘straightened out’.
• Ask if others have felt this way too and how they worked through those issues.
• Allow for solutions but steer the conversation back to the topic and how others think and feel.
• Take the most enthusiastic Christians in the group aside and explain the Alpha philosophy of no-pressure.

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