Handling Controversial Issues in Groups

Handling Controversial Issues in Groups

These are controversial times. You probably don’t have to think too hard about controversial issues that could pop up in small groups. In fact, some of the issues probably already have. What’s the best way to handle them? Should you just avoid controversy in groups? Is there a way for groups to navigate controversy in a positive or meaningful way?

When you consider the conversations between Jesus’ disciples, they had their fair share of controversy. From James and John’s mother asking about seating her sons of Jesus’ right and left in Heaven (Matthew 20:20-22) to Jesus calling one of his group members “Satan” (Matthew 16) to a group member betraying Jesus, which lead to his death (Matthew 26). The controversies in your small groups probably don’t seem so big. But, that doesn’t keep them from being troublesome. Here are some ways to handle controversy in small groups.

Nip It in the Bud

In the words of the great theologian Barnie Fife, “Just nip it. Nip it in the bud!” When group members start in on topics that have nothing to do with the group lesson and threaten the harmony in the group, the leader can simply stop the conversation. Remind the group that its purpose is to apply God’s Word, the Bible, to their lives in a practical way, and that the controversial topic is not part of the discussion. Once the controversy is diverted, then the group can return to the Bible study.

Revisit Your Group Agreement

What is the purpose of the group? Hopefully your groups have a group agreement. If you’d like to form a group agreement, the process is a free download from my study, Community: Six Weeks to a Healthy Group. The group agreement helps to define and manage expectations in small groups. Every group member has a say in what the group values and what the group is going to be about. Barring the purpose of the group being to air controversial issues, by simply reminding the group members of the agreed upon purpose of the group, the group can move forward and avoid the controversy. But, avoidance isn’t always the best method.

Hear Them Out

If a particular issue has a group stirred up, it might be good to give everyone a fair hearing. The meeting should be structured so that everyone gets to have their say without judgment or condemnation. The leader could set a time limit for each “side” to convey their point of view. This would be a good opportunity to invite the group’s coach to join the group meeting as an impartial observer. The group could even invite an expert on the topic to come and share his or her perspective on the subject.

You should limit this discussion to one meeting. Everyone can have their say. They may agree to disagree. Once this discussion has happened, then the group moves forward.

The most important thing is that each group member feels valued and heard. For any issue that is not immoral or illegal, the group members should be gracious to each other and their points of view. Any attitude that will force the choice between who’s right and who’s wrong will cause the group to either end or divide and will possibly make enemies of friends. There is no point in allowing things to go that far. It’s important for group members to understand those they disagree with. After all, every believer at one point was regarded as “God’s enemy” (James 4:4). Considering God’s patience with each believer, this would be a good exercise in patience with each other.

Think About This

If groups are ever going to do more than just scratch the surface, then controversy or disagreements will come up from time to time. If controversy never surfaces in a group, then you would need to wonder how shallow the group really is.

Of course, these thoughts are not license to stir up every possible issue. This is also not reason to turn group meetings into a circus. But, if an issue is important to a group member, then it’s important to discover the reason why. Sometimes the group’s “curriculum” doesn’t come from the pages of a book. It comes from life.

Why Do We Need a Group Agreement?

How Do I Deal with Group Members Who Gossip?

Leading Healthy Groups: A Guide for Small Group Leaders

What If You Have Someone with ADD in Your Group?

What If You Have Someone with ADD in Your Group?

By Allen White
Have you ever had a group member who just exuded enthusiasm and ADD? Did they chase rabbit trails and pull thoughts out of left field during the Peter_walks_on_water_toward_Jesus_0discussion? You may have a Promoter in your group.
We see classic Promoter behavior in the Apostle Peter. Impetuous and sometimes flaky, Peter was the only one who jumped out of the boat at Jesus’ invitation to walk on water. When Jesus announced his coming death, Peter rebuked Jesus, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” to which Jesus rebuked him right back, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:22-23). When the soldiers came to take Jesus in the Garden, Peter drew his sword and cut Malchus’ ear, which Jesus quickly healed. Then, in the temple court, before the cock crowed three times, Peter denied Jesus. Yet there was another side to Peter’s brass enthusiasm.
On the day of Pentecost, when the crowd thought the 120 in the upper room were drunk, it was Peter who stood up and explained, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” (Acts 2:14-16). Peter’s off the cuff proclamation that day resulted in 3,000 people being added to their number. There was no time to prepare a sermon. There was no time to create an outline. There was only time for a disciple empowered by God’s Spirit to open his mouth and be willing to speak. This time Peter got it right.
In this series of posts, we are looking at the different personality types of group members and how they affect the dynamics of groups. Based on Vicki Barnes book, The Real You, we have identified four core types: the Producer, the Planner, the Peacekeeper, and today will will consider the Promoter.
The Promoter is the life of the party. In fact, a Promoter’s motto could be “If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.” Now, before you take that thought too far, what I mean is a Promoter can have a great time with family and friends, but can also have a great time standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Promoters have never met a stranger and are easy to like.
They have an idea a minute, which lends to their ADD temperament. Promoters are great starters, but poor finishers. After all, how can you take something to completion if you have an idea a minute. Before one thing is even half completed, they are chasing their next idea!
Promoters are great for adding enthusiasm to a group, rallying the troops, and recruiting new members. Promoters are not so great at staying on task, starting or ending on time, or maybe even remembering they are leading on a particular week. But, if you take a Promoter’s idea, pass it on to a Producer to execute, then add a Planner’s eye for detail with the Peacekeeper checking in with everyone, your group can be a great team.
Be selective about what you delegate to a Promoter. You will see them as flaky, and they will feel frustrated. But, put them in their sweet spot of brainstorming and encouraging, and then you’ve got something.
Read More About Why Your Group Members Might Bug You
Planner: What if Dr. Luke Was in My Group?
Producer: What if the Apostle Paul Was in My Group?
Peacekeeper: What if Father Abraham Was in My Group?

Download the ebook

This FREE ebook is packed with research-based reasons to launch more groups in your church.

People in Small Groups will:

Attend More.

Give More.

Invite More.

Grow More.

Disciple More.

Serve More.

Don't believe me. Look at the research!

Simply join our list and your download will begin. Feel free to unsubscribe at any time.

You have Successfully Subscribed!