Leeds Vineyard

Group dynamics

When leading a group, the discussion may not go quite as you had planned.  Here are some thoughts on different kinds of people you may encounter in your group.


Drawing out the silent ones

How would you draw out someone who is very quiet in your group.
• Prefer the silent ones in your eye contact (so where you sit is important)
• Use a smile, nod and a gesture to draw them out rather than naming them, possibly saying “Does anyone want to add anything here?”
• Say “Lets give some other people a chance to say something” “How about those who haven’t said anything so far?”
• Ask people to think about a question for a moment before speaking and let a quieter person go first – when they make eye contact with you.
• Go round the group (but beware tension can mount – best with application questions or ones with lots of answers)
• Take time to talk to them privately about themselves, outside the meeting. Personal interest and encouragement can make all the difference.
• Affirm the responses of quieter group members, don’t let other people interrupt them.
• Often at work I will insist on a groundrule that there is only one conversation at a time in a meeting. If you have silent group members, I recommend the opposite. Allow disorder, multiple conversations, particularly from the quiet ones. They may be testing their ideas with their neighbour. Don’t force them to share it, just try to catch their eye and encourage.
• What do you think John?
• You haven’t said much, Linda
• Get to know the people one-to-one
You may feel self-conscious doing these things to start with, but after a while it becomes instinctive.
Should we even try to draw out the silent ones? Yes – their contribution is often highly insightful. And for their benefit and that of the group as a whole, they will feel more part of the community of faith if we make it easy for them to contribute to the discussion. They will both give and receive the “one anothers”


Dealing with monopolisers

• Direct approach: “Those are good ideas. Now lets give someone else a chance”
• Private chat to explain issue and enlist help with the aim of drawing everyone out.
• Interrupt: protest there are lots of ideas and we need to discuss them one at a time
• Specifically ask for each prayer to cover only one idea
• Affirm more self-disciplined contributions privately afterwards
• Remember it might be you that is the monopoliser – you might have prepared it that way!

Handling very large groups

Beyond 12 people it is very hard for most people to get a word in edgewise

  • Make sure the icebreaker leads to short answers – do it all together
  • Try subdividing into two smaller groups with same or different questions
  • Try sharing in pairs, or generating ideas in threes.
  • Sometimes come together to share output
  • Sometimes finish in small groups with prayer ministry


David Wallace, 19/09/2006