Monday, March 4, 2013

Relationship Intelligence in Small Groups

One of the primary realities that undermines small groups in North America is the fact that Americans are not very good at relationships. Years ago, I heard someone ask a leader from Brazil why they thought that God was doing such a great work there. He responded, "We don't have TV." The fact is that we have developed anti-relational patterns. We need to train people not just in how be a good Christian or how to lead a small group. We need training in how to relate. Here are some things to consider:

Level 1: Making Room Training
I use this name because of the influence of Randy Frazee and his book Making Room for Life. In it he challenges specific patterns of American suburban living and provides alternatives that are practical and concrete. The point of it is to reframe how we spend time and make room for relationships. It really does not matter if we have great relationship skills and have a overwhelming desire to connect with other if we don't have the time or space in our lives for people.

Level 2: Basic Skills Training
In many cases, we need training in some very rudimentary skills. Like:
  • How to greet another person when they come into a room 
  • How to ask questions of a person to get to know them 
  • How to listen to another person 
  • How to have a few people to your home for a meal and make them feel welcome 
  • How to share life with people who are significantly different in personality and interest 
  • How to relate to people from different ethnic backgrounds
Level 3: Conflict Training

Relational conflict cannot be avoided in group life. Every group leader training book that has any value at all addresses this topic. But only the leaders know anything about the fact that conflict is coming. Why don't we train the members for conflict? By the time a group enters into conflict, it’s too late to equip them to deal with it well. Without such a game-plan, conflict kills far too many groups.

Of course there's much more that could be said on this topic. I have an entire chapter on it in my book MissioRelate if you are interested.

BTW-If you are interested in developing missional communities or missional small groups, this is one of the primary reasons why most people are not yet ready to jump in the deep end of the experience of missional community. We have to give people relational experiences with which they can grow at the level they are at. This is why I encourage churches to think both connecting groups and missional communities. (See post here on this topic.) Unless a missional culture has been established whereby people can learn to relate well from the established culture, then train your people in the basics first.

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