Why church small groups discussions fail

Have you experienced this?

Awkward silence lingers until the small group leader tentatively asks another question. Everyone stares at their toes. Someone offers a nervous answer. The leader tries to parley it into a discussion, but no one really opens up.

OR

One person babbles endlessly about their ideas or problems while everyone else smiles and nods politely. They want to move on, but the master conversationalist is too oblivious to make space for others.

OR

Smiles and hugs aside, everyone is putting up a front and trying to look good in front of the group. Conversations are surface level and the discussion is perfunctory (e.g. filling in the blanks in a handout with the obvious right answers).

OR

Everyone is nice to each other and loves talking about football, work, relationships, etc. But when it comes time to talk about God or the Bible, the mood shifts from a lighthearted gathering of friends to a serious high-pressure environment where everyone must bare their soul to experience enlightenment and transformation.


I cherry-picked these scenarios, but there’s many ways you can get that uncomfortable vibe when a small group discussion isn’t thriving.

In the back of your mind, you may be asking:

“Why am I here? This is a waste of time…”

Here’s one idea for how to change that:

Focus on discovering and unleashing each other’s gifts.

We’re individually supposed to fan our gifts into flame (2 Timothy 1:6). So why not help each other do this in our small groups?

We’re supposed to spur each other on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). So why don’t we make that the main goal of our small groups?

If you’ve felt bored, disappointed or maybe even guilty over letting your gifts languish and not using them fully for God’s Kingdom, don’t you think other people might feel the same way too?

What would it look like if the goal of your small group were to activate each other’s gifts and release them into the world?

I think it’d look like Paul’s description of how the Body grows up in Ephesians 4. It might even look like the seeds of a second Reformation.

So, what God-given gifts will you fan into flame?

And when you’re in a small group, how will you help fan into flame the gifts of others?

PS, I started this post over 5 years ago, so I’m not singling out any particular church. As part of a New Year commitment to write more regularly, I decided to polish the draft and ship it in 2019 🙂