I’m often asked, “How would you describe the role of a small group leader?” The answer to this question isn’t difficult to respond to. Having mulled this over for many years and considering what most churches require of the individuals who lead a small group, the response is simply, “A small group leader is the pastor/shepherd of a small congregation.”
One of the responsibilities of a pastor shepherd is to protect the flock from those things that negatively affect the hearts of the people in their group. With this in mind, there are four times a small group leader must speak up.
- When someone in the group is verbally bullying another group member. Once in a great while there will be someone in a small group whose tone, intensity, and body language is purposefully used to intimidate other group members. When this person is using these manipulative tools with the entire group or individuals in the group, the small group leader must speak up.
- When there’s conflict between group members. Too many group leaders choose to ignore it when people in the group are at odds with one another. Sooner or later, 1) there will be a verbal explosion during a group meeting, 2) one or other of the group members will leave the group, or 3) the group leader will be drawn into the conflict, not to resolve it, but to choose a side. When there’s conflict between group members a wise group leader will step into the situation as soon as possible and mediate a conversation that leads to resolution and reconnection.
- When group members are gossiping about other group members. Gossip will almost always lead to devastating relational consequences. Like roaches, gossips hide in dark places, come out at night when they can’t be noticed, and dirty everything up. The same is true of a gossip. If a small group leader is going to protect the hearts of those they lead and the unity of the group, that group leader must, when they are made aware of it, confront the gossip and aid them in learning to, “remain silent” and “speak the truth in love.”
- When a coalition has been built. Perhaps nothing is more dangerous to the unity of a group than when part of the group becomes a coalition of disgruntled conversationalists. Coalitions are built when a few people begin gossiping with one another about group life, someone else in the group, others in the group, and/or the leadership of the group leader. People who are part of a coalition intuitively empower one another and sooner or later, during a group meeting or in a one on one conversation the group leader will hear these words – “A few of us have been talking and…”. That statement is almost always followed by a complaint, a complaint that has the backing of everyone else in the dastardly coalition. When a group leader realizes there’s a coalition in the group they lead, they should meet with those people, hear their concerns, and aid them in understanding that, when one of them has a concern they should come to the leader of the group, not begin polling the other group members.