Essential Strategies for Bible Study Leaders
Every now and then you encounter a group member who’s harder to turn off than Niagara Falls. Though most monopolizers are motivated learners who are passionately involved with the subject matter, their verbal initiatives often cause passivity among others in the group. Here are a few ways to increase the percentage of group members who participate.
- Introduce a study question with a qualifying remark. I’ve received lots of mileage out of this one: “The next questions should be answered by someone who hasn’t contributed yet today.” (Except I wouldn’t use it if the group consisted of only two or three persons!)
- Set specific conditions for learner response. Examples: “I appreciate the responsiveness of ladies in the group. Men, now it’s your turn to answer the next couple questions.” “The next question must be answered by someone to my right (or someone in the last four rows, whose birthday falls in the spring, etc.)”
- Give a couple of group members who don’t monopolize conversations a question or assignment a week in advance. At the appropriate time during the next Bible lesson, ask them to report on their research. Select individuals whom you can count on to follow through, and who possess a high regard for Scripture. Or in the case of teens or relatively new believers, maintain “quality control” by assisting them in the assignment.
- Plan for a variety of discussion strategies or forms. For instance, divide a larger class into small buzz groups. Give the smaller group a specific assignment in the Bible text, and a time limit. Tell every small group to appoint a recorder who’ll later summarize their findings with the whole class. Mixing the question-answer approach with other forms of discussion broadens participation and may muzzle monopolizers.
- Speak one-to-one with the monopolizers. If this person’s talkativeness is spurred by enthusiasm for learning, make comments similar to the following: “John, you’re the kind of learner I’d like to photocopy and put in every chair! But I need your help in getting others as involved in discussions as you are. Because they expect you to respond, they’re shifting into a passive mode and aren’t wrestling with the questions. I want you to keep participating. But could you delay your answers to some questions and compel your peers to get more involved?”
What suggestion would you add for “managing monopolizers” during Bible discussions?
Next time, I’ll cover ways to handle difficult or controversial subject matter.