Thursday, March 14, 2013

When (Not If) Group Members Cause Problems

Here’s a sure thing for any small group: You will have problems. There will be at least one person in every season of group life that creates, well let’s call them challenges. Groups are full of people. All people are hurting and need healing in some way. And when people start revealing themselves to one another, their hurts will hurt others. Hurting people hurt people, as the old saying goes.
These hurts manifest in as many different ways as there are people in groups. However, there are some consistent patterns that I’ve observed over the years. It could be illustrated by this picture:

A fun activity is the name each of the people represented in this picture. For instance, the owl at the top could be called Mr. I-Know-the-Answer-but-I’m-Not-Telling. Or Mr. I’ve-Done-This-Before-So-I-Can’t-Be-Bothered. Of course this illustration is all men. Women don’t display disfunctions like these in groups. Right? Well, since I’m a man I won’t respond.

Of course, most of the time, people’s hurts don’t come out all at once. But when one does, how a leader responds can be the difference between letting this problem control the group or allowing the Spirit to use the situation to lead the group to the next level.

So when problems occur, here are a few questions to ask:
  • Is this a new behavior or just that outward manifestation of an ongoing problem? If it is new, then find out what has happened in the person’s life and talk through the issue. If it is ongoing, then it may be time to deal with the issue and see God’s healing.
  • Is this best addressed with the entire group, in a sub-group of two or three or in a one-on-one conversation? Don’t assume that there is a one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Does this person need help from someone outside the group? Sometimes issues arise that are bigger than what you or the group can deal with. Enlist the help of your coach or pastor.
  • What is God doing through this problem to change the person? What is God doing to change the group? Remember this is not about fixing the issue. God wants to work through that which arises to change our lives?
  • What is God doing in you as you relate to the person who is struggling? 
This may be the more important question of all. If you go forth in ministry in humble submission, the person who is presenting the challenge and the entire group will be much more likely to respond in kind. This starts on your knees, asking God to give you his heart for the situation.A few years ago, I was leading a group with a Mr. Know-It-All. He reminds me of the person at the bottom of the picture with the raised hand and pointed finger. He had answers for everyone’s problems. And he was driving me crazy. Then I realized that the person who needed to change the most was me. I needed God’s heart for him. As I prayed, I did not feel that he was ready for any direct confrontation or challenge. However, I was given the grace to steer his comments in the group meetings without an angry face. And after a while, he loosened up and quit being so Know-It-Allish. All he needed was some time. But I had to change first.

1 comment:

Mike Mack said...

Love this, Scott! Great questions to ask, but I especially like your story about Mr. know It All in your group. Been there, done that! And your response is right on. A Christ-centered group starts with a Christ-focused leader.