Every now and then you'll encounter group members who feel that every second of silence is a divine mandate for them to speak. Though most monopolizers are motivated learners who are passionate about the subject matter, their talkativeness can cause others to become passive. Here are four ways to increase the percentage of group members who participate.
Introduce a question with a qualifying remark. I've received lots of mileage out of this one: "The next question should be answered by someone who hasn't contributed yet today." (Don't use it if the group consists of only two or three people!)
Let them prepare in advance. Give a couple of your quieter group members a question or term to think about a week in advance. At the appropriate time during the next Bible lesson, ask them to report on their research and offer their thoughts. Select individuals who possess a high regard for Scripture and whom you can count on to follow through. In the case of teens or relatively new believers, you may want to assist them with the assignment or pair them with a more mature believer. This method works especially well for those who need more time to process their thoughts.
Plan for a variety of discussion strategies or forms. For instance, divide a larger group into smaller groups. Give the smaller groups a specific assignment in the Bible text and a time limit. Tell every small group to appoint a recorder who will later summarize the group's findings for the whole group. Splitting into small groups and mixing the question-answer approach with other forms of discussion broadens participation and may help muzzle monopolizers.
Speak one-on-one with the monopolizer. Enlist his or her help in getting others involved in the discussion: "John, you're an incredible learner, and I really appreciate that. But I need your help in getting others as involved in discussions as you are. Because they expect you to respond, the other group members are 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 wait for a few other group members to answer first?"
—Terry Powell is the author of Now That's A Good Question! You can find out more about him at drterrypowell.com. This article is used with permission from the author.