The dynamic of group study is one that is widely used and endorsed by not only the church, but schools and business as well. We may call them by a myriad of flashy names to sell them, but in the end they are all functionally the same. It's a widely held belief that there is power in the group dynamic, and it's the most efficient way of producing and relaying information. However, the research done on the subject has not supported this idea at all. In fact, all the data seems to indicate that this is the most inefficient methods available. One study in particular that was initially done to try to prove the virtues of the group dynamic, ended up discovering the three main culprits that make groups ineffective.
Social loafing - Any group dynamic is only a big as the number of participants. There always seem to be a few who are content to listen and not contribute. Often, these are introverts who feel overwhelmed by the high level of stimulus that groups provide. Yet, it can be an extrovert who doesn't feel that they can compete at the subject at hand. Which is what all these efficiency killers come down to, the competitive nature of groups. Extroverts tend to naturally have that nature, and gravitate towards competitive environments because of it. Where introverts tend to be non-confrontational. Which is why extroverts have the edge over introverts when it comes to group study. Which is the other half of the extrovert disadvantage in study I have mentioned. The method best suited to them is least efficient.
Production blocking - There always seems to be at least one person in the group who wants to dominate the conversation. Again, a group's dynamic is only as big as the number of active participants. A production blocker keeps that number low. This is often an extrovert being their natural selves. They also have a tendency to get off the subject at hand to direct the subject towards something they can better compete in. Introverts can be guilty of production blocking on occasion too. If the subject at hand is something they are well versed in, and there are no dominants to get in their way. They may seize the opportunity to show that they are not as stupid as extroverts accuse them of being.
Evaluation apprehension - This is simply the fear of being judged harshly for what you say. Then spoiling the group dynamic by giving into that fear. Which can be anybody, who feels they cannot compete in one way or another.
As someone who has participated in and facilitated many small groups, it was easy to see the truth of these efficiency killers. I've observed them all for myself. But for the church, it shouldn't be true. For those who follow the Bible and the Holy Spirit we really should know better. We should realize that groups should be a collaborative one, not a competitive one. That they are there for well informed to share what they know with the less informed; not offer a venue to show off. The fact that it is true is a symptom of a really huge problem that the church needs to address. However, it’s a problem that even the first generation church had to deal with as well. (1 Corinthians 14:26-40)
Finally, try to remember that as far as the church is concerned, groups are just as much about fellowship as they are learning. So it’s okay if they are not all that efficient in education. But, if they turn competitive, they are not functioning well in that sense either.
The Visual PARABLEist
The Visual PARABLEist