You know that student who seems to have the ability to totally derail any quality conversation you are having with your small group? Yeah, that one. I know, you feel guilty for secretly praying his family would move far away. It’s OK. We  all have him in our group. Knowing you are not alone is good, but what can you do about it?

His name is Micah. He always has something to say. Always. He was part of my small group for the last 3 years. Whenever someone would share at a volunteer staff meeting about some struggle they were having, inevitably Micah’s name would pop up. One week I had had enough. I wasn’t going to let Micah ruin our quality sharing time in our small group anymore.

I had a plan. It was a two-fold plan. First, I took him out to a local coffee shop and talked with him. I told him all of the thing I appreciated about him. I asked him what things in his life were encouraging and what things in his life were discouraging. Micah has a story. It’s not always the easiest story. I knew some of these things, but he shared more details. It gave me more empathy for him. Perhaps a little more tolerance. But it was not enough to make it bearable on a regular basis for him to continue to be disruptive. I told him that it was hard for me to lead our group when he would take our conversation completely off topic and turn everything toward something completely irrelevant.  I was gentle, but he received it.

Part two: I asked if he would be interested in helping me lead our small group the following week. His eyes and ears perked up and he listened for more info. I asked Micah to take time over the following week to prepare 30 minutes where he would take us through a passage of Scripture. It could be any passage he wanted to use. I also asked him to be prepared with 5 questions for us to interact with.

Small group the following Monday night came and several things happened when Micah’s turn came to lead. A) He read his Bible. That was a big task in itself. He has made it clear that he doesn’t like to read anything. Ever. B) He was completely involved in our discussion time because he was leading it. C) He asked the guys several times to be quiet and listen or interact. Even when someone was responding to a question he had asked and someone else interrupted. They listened. D) He got a little insight into what it was like for me at times with how he behaved.

Was he perfect? No. Did this make him completely stop derailing us after that? No. It did, however, lessen the amount of derailment. It gave me the opportunity to remind him of how frustrating it was for him when others interrupted when he was leading.

What have you done to help with “that” student?