Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Small Group and Team Communications” (SL#49)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3 - Interpersonal Communication

Group Communication: Interpersonal communication is very dynamic and has great diversity of application in your life and leadership. Let’s examine how the small groups of your life situations fit into the picture. First, what about small groups and teams?

Matthew 18:20 (NIV)--For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

Group or Team?
In most congregations there are significant numbers of small groups and teams, which may look just alike and be called by similar names. Although they are dissimilar in many ways, both require effective communications to function well:

  1. Definition/Identification
    A small group is usually composed of at least three members, but no more than twelve to fifteen, with each one enabled to interact and communicate openly and freely in seeking to achieve a common goal(s).

    Social: Some small groups primarily provide interpersonal needs such as esteem, control, influence, affection, belonging; we may see this as essential to the true fellowship life of the church. On almost any team or small group, there are those who focus on relationships and process.

    Task: Some work groups join together to initiate and complete a specific task--offering guidance, support, and commitment. There are those on any group who are best at focusing the group on task performance and results.

    Synergy: Other small groups/teams combine both of these characteristics, using their ideas, skills, resources, and time to complete higher, better tasks or decisions. This is synergy at work, and communication is at the center of it.

    In an interactive communication model, synergy is more likely to occur because each member can freely participate. Review the following model and explanation.

    Interpersonal communication may be one-on-one as a message Sender(s) and Receiver(s) in immediate interchange of roles through selected channels. This may also be true within a small group, or team, showing that communication is open and interactive. There may be a group leader (S/R) who facilitates the process and participates in it but does not control the communication. Both relationships and results stay in the mix.

  2. Communication--Leader Controlled
    On the other hand, in small group communication, there is a style that is least effective but perhaps too often experienced. See if you recognize this in any groups you belong to. Also, where do you fit into the picture below?

    The group leader is the source and controller of the communication stream: usually sets the agenda, shares selected information, proposes the solutions, and seeks or expects group members’ approval.

    Group members listen passively or in frustration, join in little interaction, provide insignificant feedback, and voice approval; then run to the underground communication network.

  3. Small Group Development/Communication

    Just how does a group develop in stages from a collection of individuals to a functioning productive group or team? Although some members are more adapt at task, others at process, all the members participate to move the group toward fulfilling the task. Succinctly put: “Our job is to make widgets and take care of one another.”

    Bruce A. Tuckman, a research psychologist, is first credited (Psychological Bulletin, 63, pp. 384-399) and often quoted for small-group development stages--and communication is an obvious component in each stage:
  4. Small Group Types/Sizes
    The ideal size of a team or group has much to do with its purpose and its needed communication components. Teams may be from three to fifteen or so; some types of groups may be much larger. Let’s consider examples of small groups and teams requiring communication strategies based on task, type, and size:

For Reflection/Assessment/Application
In a one-week period, what small groups/teams are included in your schedule? Reflect on the most critical, time consuming, or dysfunctional. As you study this article, keep these especially in mind: family? Sunday School class? choir council? deacons/elders? project team? school board? nominating committee? staff meeting? other?

Close this window 

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership