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Dealing with Group Problems
In May, Celyce and I ministered for two weeks in Thailand at the Evangelical Church of Bangkok (ECB). Along with doing seminars and preaching, we had the opportunity to visit three Life Groups and consult with leaders individually. The leaders were encouraged to sign-up to meet with Celyce and me personally on four different days.
Between visiting the groups and meeting with the leaders, I noticed four specific problems. These problems are not unique to Bangkok. In fact, I've noticed them all over the world. Because they are universal problems, they also showed up in the Life groups in Bangkok.
Here they are:
- Problem people in the group. In the case of Thailand, there are many asylum seekers from a particular country, which I will not mention in this newsletter. These refugees tended to flood the Life groups, hoping to find help. They became a source of irritation to many groups which felt they were too bold in asking for money. ECB had to deal with this situation, making a rule that each Life group should only have one refugee and that asking for money was off-limits. But this is just one example of problem people in groups throughout the world. Other problem people include gossipers, dysfunctional people who don't know how to relate to others, and debaters.
- The tendency to give advice, rather than listening. As we visited the groups, we noticed this common problem. There was a tendency to offer counsel and to try to correct the problem after someone shared deeply. While members might have the answers, often the greatest healing comes through careful listening, rather than giving immediate answers that tend to shut people down. Now there is a time and a place to give answers. For example, approaching the person individually after the Life group is a great time to share biblical truth. Another option is after diligently listening to the person to say something like, "I hear what you are saying. I wrestled with this issue myself and Jesus showed me this Scripture. . . "
- Dealing with the talkers (and getting the shy to talk). Dealing with the talkers was a common problem with those leaders who signed up to talk with us. I also noticed this problem in one of the groups I visited. Yet, this is also an age-old problem in cell groups worldwide. Left unchecked, a talker can ruin the group and the leader needs to know how to deal with him or her.
- Neglecting key parts of the Life group (Icebreaker, worship, etc.). I visited one group that failed to do an icebreaker, and I felt lost. A new person would have felt the same way. Another group bombed in the worship time, and we weren't prepared for the lesson that followed. Keeping the group moving and a balanced diet of Welcome, Worship, Word, and Works really helps bring life. Granted, there are times when the Spirit moves differently, but unless that happens, it's best to follow a balanced Life group order.
In the month of June, we'll explore this topic more in-depth. If you'd like to receive these twenty blogs in your inbox, press here. We'll cover:
- June 04-10: How to deal with problem people.
- June 11-17: The tendency to give advice rather than listening.
- June 18-24: Dealing with those who talk too much (or helping those who talk too little).
- June 25-July 01: Following a balanced order in the Life Group--not neglecting the key parts of the Life group.
Have you noticed these problems in your own cell group? Different ones? Feel free to comment here.
Joel Comiskey and Jim Egli's 2017 book, Groups that Thrive: 7 Surprising Discoveries about Life-Giving Small Groups will be available in November.
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