Too often, as small group leaders, we think we have to have all (or at least most of) the answers. When a difficult situation arises in a group that we’re not quite sure how to handle, the tension can be thick and difficult to deal with (both within the context of the group meeting itself, as well as within our own internal consciousness). We can feel somehow “unequipped” as a leader. We feel like, as the “leader,” we should know how to handle these things. After all, aren’t we there to care for and shepherd our people?
Yes – we are. But, guess what? You don’t.
It’s a fact that situations very well may come up that cause this kind of stress and tension in the group – perhaps even making some (or many) people uncomfortable as a result. These types of things may be related to a marital problem a member/couple may be having, an addiction issue, a legal matter, or some other serious situation.
You need to understand that some things shouldn’t be dealt with in a small group (by the leader, or anyone else). Sure, you and the group are there to support each other in times of struggle and pain, but you also have to realize that you’re not a counselor and a small group is not a counseling session (even if you actually are a “counselor” or have one in your group). Some things are simply out of bounds. These are the situations I described above that can cause tension and stress within the group.
The best thing you can do is to recognize when something’s too big a deal to deal with in small group and stop it from being a topic of discussion at the time. You may even need to tell the person that this (the small group meeting) is not an appropriate forum for this kind of discussion. (this conversation is ideally done on the side, though that’s not always possible) Next, recommend that the person(s) seek advice and counseling from a pastor or professional counselor (which you probably are not). Again, even if you have a pastor or professional counselor in your group, there’s a time and place for everything (and this isn’t it).
So, what can you do? Pray. You don’t need to know the details of the situation. Just pray for the person(s) and the situation. Remember this – the biggest single thing that differentiates groups that grow are ones where the leader prays for the group and its members regularly!
Group Life Deacon
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NIV)