Be quick to listen, slow to speak. -James 1:19
James knew us too well. He knows that we would struggle with speaking too much, too quickly, and too often. He knew that it would be easier to step up and say something than to push through silence and allow someone else time to process and respond.
James was a wise man. And we’d do well to follow his wisdom.
Small group leaders need to remember this when leading their small group.
4 Ways to Listen Well
1. Listen intently to people’s stories. Knowing where somebody has come from and why they gave that particular answer will be unbelievably helpful for you as you lead that person. Listening to and remembering people’s stories makes them feel that you care, and is a way you can love your group members.
2. Ask questions and wait for answers. Don’t ask a question and give your answer first. Let others chew on it and share their thoughts. Some people are slower to answer than others. They may be more contemplative and take longer to process their answers. Or, they may simply be polite and not want to talk over anybody. As the group leader, be okay with silence. You may have introverts in your group.
3. Observe body language. Communication happens verbally and non-verbally. Don’t neglect either. If someone seems to be eager to engage, give them the chance. If they’re hesitant, be careful pressing in too much.
4. Ask follow-up questions. Instead of taking an answer at face value and moving on, linger for a while. Ask a follow-up question that draws the answer out a bit more. Ask the group for feedback. Listen for similarities and differences in responses, and connect them.
Truth: The goal of a small group is not for the “right” answer to be the first answer.
Work to facilitate discussion.
Work to listen more and talk less.