by Joel Comiskey
When you’re leading a cell group, do you try to look right at the person answering the question? Or do you look away at times so the person will talk to other members of the cell group? After all, a key purpose of the cell is for members to minister to one another. Is it counter-productive, therefore, if the members look directly at the leader while answering the questions? Does that convert the cell group into a classroom experience?
I’ve been thinking about this in the last couple weeks. One leader recently said to me, “After I ask a question, I look down at the ground, so the members will talk to each other, rather than looking directly at me.” Another leader present in my house that day echoed Bill’s remarks. I knew God was throwing me a curve ball because I confessed to the group, “This is a brand new concept. I know that Ralph Neighbour has taught that if members don’t answer the question right away, it’s best to look at your big toe or something like that. But when people are talking, I’ve always taught and practiced the importance of looking the person directly in the eyes while listening intently to his or her answer. But I can see the validity of what you’re saying. I’ll have to give this some thought.”
Last Tuesday in my LIFE group, I tested this concept. I tried shifting my eyes to another person while a member was answering the question. It worked. Rather than just answering my question, the member started talking to others in the group. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want the member to feel unloved or not listened to by my lack of eye contact. So this leads me to my question:
What has worked for you? Share how you have successfully drawn out members to talk to other members, rather than primarily talking to the cell leader. . . .
P.S.: We at JCG will not blog again until January 03, 2010 because of the Christmas/New Year season. We at JCG wish you a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year. Thanks for all your contributions. . .
6 thoughts on “Members Talking to Members in the Cell Group”
You know, the direct method works really well. I simply inform the group that it makes me feel very odd and uncomfortable when everyone answers questions as if I were the only other person in the room, and then talk about why that is human nature and what we can do about it as a group of humans to break the habit.
I also write out all the questions, number them and hand them out to different members much of the time. This gets everyone asking questions and everyone answering questions and it does an excellent job of speaking solely to the facilitator.
Thanks, Randall! You’ve never been one to shy away from the direct approach. . So it seems that you would advocate just telling the group in advance to speak to others. Do you have to do this often? Once per year? Per month?
When the group is first started, we establish meeting rules as a group. I don’t lay down the law, but invite everyone to share something important and then get everyone else to say “that should be a group rule” or “that’s important, but not to everyone so we’ll be sure to remain sensitive to you in that regard.”
Then, when everyone starts talking to the facilitator instead of the whole group, the next week we begin with a review of the meeting rules. Now here’s where inviting others to be direct is really powerful: at the end of the meeting I hand out a list of the rules we designed together and ask everyone to share their strongest one and their weakest one with the group. If they’ve only spoken to the facilitator, they’ll say “I need to work on this one and I gave myself a 2 out of 10 tonight.”
Pointing fingers at people or speaking to them directly about annoying little issues like this only makes the leader look controlling and not led by the Spirit. However, when the leader purposely, yet gently leads the group into dialog where the Christ within each person is encouraged to minister to one another in love, the “directness” is powerful, appropriate, and highly valued by the members.
I cannot count the number of times members have come up to me after a meeting or the day after a meeting via phone or email saying, “thank you so much for bringing __________ up as an issue for dialog with the whole group. It was an elephant in the room that needed to be acknowledged and addressed.”
For cell groups/holistic small groups to be healthy and deepen relationally, there must be open dialog about relational issues and meeting dynamics.
I actually have used that method in business when chairing a brainstorming meeting. I really think we all have a tendency of “answering” to the person hosting, or leading a gathering. All of these comments above are very helpful to my learning experience in leading cell groups. Thank you.
Thanks Randall for the insight in setting up “guidelines”, that was encouraging. I also use the “ask a question and look at my shoe” for a moment. Once they are looking around the room, I again will look at them but if they begin to focus on me I casually look at somebody else while maintaining a listening posture, leaning in, perhaps a nod of my head. I want them to know I am listening, and that what they say is important, but I really desire for them to connect with others in the group as well.
Thanks, Randall, you’ve reminded us about the importance of having some kind of GROUP COVENANT, in which the member to member dynamic is listed. You go a step farther and ask members to evaluate how their doing. Wow! I do believe in the importance and power of evaluations, so I’m impressed by your effort.