Small Group Tips #21: Challenging Personalities

By Bill Search

Small groups are made up of people and because they're made up of people, they're not perfect, because people aren't perfect. In fact, every normal group has normal people in it, and normal people are imperfect people.

However, I want you to be on the lookout for a handful of, say, personality types that if left unchecked could do great damage to your group.


The Dominator

The first is the dominator. This is the person who pushes their thoughts and opinions front and center into every conversation. They can't help themselves but to be in the middle of the group. They love to talk and they want everyone to listen to their thoughts. They interrupt constantly, and are not interested in listening to other people, other opinions, or any other thoughts. Their own thoughts are the only thing that matter and they dominate the group.

The Topper

The other type of person to be on the lookout for is related to the dominator, but it’s the topper –  a story topper. This is the person that no matter what is shared, they have some experience or something that will top whatever was said. For instance, you get excited because you just got the brand new archaeological Study Bible, so you share it with the group and you show them all the neat charts, graphs, and maps. The topper looks at it and says, "Well that's okay, but if you really want the experience you should go on archaeological dig like I did in the Holy Land." And just like that, they top your story and make you feel pretty small.

The Comedian

The other person to be on the lookout for in the group is the comedian. I'm not talking about someone who every now and then cracks a joke. That's a welcome part of any group. I'm talking about the person that can't let any moment stay serious. They always have to keep the mood light, and if the group starts to get serious, they start telling jokes and doing weird stuff to get the group off track. Be on the lookout for the comedian.

The Needy Emotional

Then finally there's the emotionally needy person; I think of them as the emotional black hole. This is the person that will suck all the life out of the group. This is the person that wants every group to be a therapy session with them right in the middle of the room.

As the leader, be on the lookout for these folks, because they need to be addressed. If you ignore them, they won't go away and will end up blending into the group. But these types of people, if left unchecked, will kill your group. If you want to know how to deal with those people in your group, read the next post on carefrontation.

*This is the twenty-first post in a series of 27 Tips for Small Group Leaders

Bill Search Simple Small Groups

BILL SEARCH is the author of Simple Small Groups. He has served in ministry for nearly 20 years. Bill loves spending time with his family, drinking great coffee, listening to jazz, and enjoying the great outdoors.