How well do you listen to you the few in your group?

I know we would all say “pretty well”.

But the reality is most of us don’t listen as well as we think we do.

Here are some fun facts about our listening habits[1]:

  • Amount of time we spend listening to others – 45%
  • How much information we usually recall immediately after we listen to someone talk – 50%
  • How much we remember of what we hear – 20%

We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but we think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute

I would say as a leader of a small group listening is often overlooked. And if our few feel unheard they will feel unimportant.

The biggest gift we can give our few is the gift of listening to them. The gift of listening is simply a commitment to hear exactly what our few are saying. Great small group leaders are great listeners. Use your ears as you lead your few.

A notable physiologist, Dr. Karl Menninger has three tips on how to be a great listener:

  • Listen Openly. This is where you open your thinking to your few’s view point. Listen to their point of view. As you listen, this gives you a chance to dive into their world and see as they do. Listening is our interface with our few’s thoughts. Make sure to really listen and not judge. If your mind is clouded with thoughts about ‘what they should do’ or ‘how they are wrong’, you will miss the reality of their current thinking and what they are saying.
  • Being Aware of Assumptions as You Listen. We all have assumptions, which may be right or wrong about our few. Assumptions and listening don’t mix. We all know what happens when we assume things about our few. When assuming things about our few, we may be missing big opportunities to help grow them in their faith. Listen with awareness and remove assumptions.
  • Listening Well Leads to Good Questions. When you listen, you get more information from your few. This more information leads to better questions. The more you listen, the more you will know. A good percentage for small group leaders to remember for listening vs talking is 80/20. 80% listening and 20% talking.


Listening is key when leading a small group. Active listening builds trust and understanding. When you listen well, you’ll more easily find questions to guide the conversation more effectively. What are some pointers you can share that have helped you remember to lead by listening?



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Jeremy holds a B.A. in Communication from University of Minnesota as well as a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has a passion for connecting with and learning from student pastors, deliberatively researching, reading, and blogging about student ministry and family ministry, dabbling with online technology and experimenting in ministry lifestyle design and productivity in the church. Jeremy and his wife, Mikaela, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he serves as an Orange Specialist with the XP3 Student team.

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