By Tess Schoonhoven
In the concluding episode of a recent Group Answers podcast series uncovering potential “killers” of small group ministry, host Chris Surratt was joined by Dr. Eddie Mosley, minister of groups at Brentwood Baptist Church, to discuss four things to watch out for when relationships between individuals within the group break and how it affects this crucial ministry.
1. Don’t take sides.
Surratt says depending on the situation, rallying around a harmed individual may be needed, but that it should be done with openness and intentionality.
Mosley suggests getting with both people individually in order to walk through the conflict with them, from the outside in.
“Walk with whichever one will be open to you,” Mosley says.
Connect the people in conflict to others even potentially outside the group who can encourage and counsel them.
It is important not to leave hurting people to themselves, Mosley says.
Connecting them with those who can help them take that extra step to healing is vital.
2. Help them find new groups.
“Dropping out of church would be a natural step, so we want to fight that,” Mosley says.
Leaders of small groups should be willing to take the time to restore individuals of broken relationships to a place where they can find the community they desperately need.
Sometimes that may be finding a new small group and sometimes that may even mean finding a new church.
But, Mosley says, members and leaders should be willing to go that extra step even outside of the current community.
3. Be honest and open with the group.
Surratt says that keeping other group members in the loop about hurt going on between other individuals is important because they’ll eventually notice if someone leaves the group.
“Be honest with the group on what’s happening,” Surratt adds. “Just keep people in the know.”
The key is keeping the relationships strong between other group members and leaders so when individuals do have breakage happen, they are not cut off from healing and community.
It can be hard to make time for people, Mosley notes, but small group leaders should make it a habit to notice how the people in their group are doing.
The small group is a family, and families check up on each other when things seem wrong, Mosley noted.
Most of the checking in with people should happen on a personal, individual level as that is where the most honesty is cultivated.
“One on one they’re going to share their stories,” he says. “It’s your job to be a person that will listen and give good advice, but that never is going to happen inside the large group meeting.”
4. Allow God to strengthen relationships in the group.
Surratt notes that when a relationship between two people in the group goes through a difficult time it can also be a unique opportunity to teach other members what healthy relationships look like, strengthening them and building them up.
Pray for each other, specifically other couples and those in relationships.
Mosley says that group members also need to understand that those healing from broken relationships need adequate time to do so.
Often this time is taken away from the group context, so leaders encourage other group members to allow for the individuals of the hurting parties to take that time before they come back.
“Don’t just write them off because they’re not attending group,” Surratt says.
Every small group ministry that is seeking to last and be edifying will probably face the group killers discussed on this recent episode and the ones prior, he says.
It’s vital then to be there for the group members and help healing happen on all sides.
Knowing the next steps to point people to is possible by being aware of the killers hiding in the shadows.
Keeping the mission of the group focused on Christ is vital to staying aware and grounded as the group faces rocky terrain.
“Is the group based on the mission of creating disciples?” Surratt asks. “Is it a gospel-centered mission? If it’s based on anything else, then the group will crumble.”
TESS SCHOONHOVEN (@TessSchoonhoven) is a former intern with Facts & Trends and a recent graduate of California Baptist University.