Four Conversation Tips for Small Group Leaders


Small Group leaders dream of lively discussions with lots of interaction. Here are a few tips for leaders to use in leading small group conversations.

Icebreakers: Use an icebreaking question to help people break the sound barrier. If people talk at the beginning of the lesson, they will be more likely to participate in the discussion. Good icebreaker questions have the following characteristics: they are based on group members experience, everyone can answer, answers are a word, phrase or sentence not paragraph, chapter or book. Use icebreakers with new groups, quiet groups or when someone new joins your group. Ice breakers are great when everyone looks frazzled or tired. They help the group focus on the discussion. Use your discretion. If your group dives into conversation, you will not need icebreaking questions.

Questions: Use open ended questions to stimulate interesting discussions. What was the name of Jesus’ mother? No one wants to answer that question. Avoid questions that have one word answers, yes or no or feel like a test. Instead, use questions that can be answered in a variety of ways.

15 second rule: Coach your group on using shorter answers to encourage interaction. People tend to be able to focus on what someone is saying in a group conversation for about 15 seconds. When people talk for a long time, it inhibits listening and discussion. Leaders can encourage good conversation by modeling short answers. They might also find a creative way to share this tip with their group, they might say: “ I heard that people generally only listen in a group conversation for about 15 seconds, do you think that’s true?” See what happens.

WAIT – Why Am I Talking: This is a powerful acronym for small group leaders. If we are honest with ourselves the answers can be quite revealing. I am talking because I am nervous, afraid of silence, feel the need to teach or something else? Here is a verse that says it all! Proverbs 17:27-28 “Those who have knowledge use words with restraint, and those who have understanding are even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Please add your small group discussion tips to the list! What has worked for you?  

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I just wanted to add some additional tips about open -ended questions that were shared with me by a communications pro. The best open-ended questions start with the key question words: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How; and cannot be answered with a yes or no. (My favorites start with "Why" or "How.")

Great tips here!

good tips!  Here's one more:  Whenever I have led a Bible study or small group discussion and I ask a question, I count to "7" in my head.  I don't answer the question; I don't rephrase the question, until I have fully counted to 7.  You'll be surprised; 99% of the time, someone will offer an answer in the silence of 7 seconds!  Too often leaders feel like they have to jump in  so fast.  7 seconds may feel long when it's silent & you think people are staring at their Bibles mindlessly or staring at you, the floor or the others in the group, but it's not really that long!