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Walking the Small Group Tightrope

Small groups can be tricky things to lead. Every group is different because it is made up of unique individuals who have different personalities, different expectations, and different past small group experiences. I've led several small groups over the past several years...some of them have been ultra-challenging, and others seemed to go quite smooth. This book laid out 6 of the challenges that every small group will face to one degree or another...and how to find a balance between the 2 extremes in each case (like walking on a tightrope).

1. Balance between truth and life; Goal: Spiritual Transformation
This is the challenge of the CONTENT of the study- is the study hang out too much around the theoretical, the information? Or does it take truth and make it apply to real life? Groups that focus too much on the "life" aspect are those where everyone is just giving advice/helping solve each others' problems without the study of Scripture.

2. Balance between care and discipleship; Goal: Intentional Shepherding
How does the leader/facilitator of the group handle group time? Is it spent talking about each other's struggles/problems the whole time (nurturing the group)? Or is it all about disciplines and information transfer? This is similar to the last one, except this is more of a challenge for the leader specifically because it's more about their leadership style.

3. Balance between friendship and accountability; Goal: Authentic Relationship
The key between this delicate balance? p. 73- "Deepening friendships must intentionally bring increasing accountability into the relationship." When does the next step towards accountability happen in a group? Too early and it can scare people off or make them close up (if trust hasn't been established yet). Too late and it doesn't challenge the group to meet the goal of the group. This is a balance that, from my experience, gets much harder as the size of the group gets larger.

4. Balance between kindness and confrontation; Goal: Healthy Conflict
I haven't really been in a group where there has been any type of confrontation, so I'm not sure what this would look like. We've had discussions about things that have been hot issues, but I can't recall it ever getting tense. Maybe that means as a leader I fall too heavily on kindness because I never allow the group to get to a place where confrontation is needed.

5. Balance between task and people; Goal: Serving Together
At Willowcreek (where the authors are from), small groups are not just bible studies, but they are also ministry serving teams as well. For example, the group of greeters may meet for 30 minutes every sunday before the service to pray together, talk about what's going on in each others' lives, etc. Or, the group of elders are not just a business-type team, but they are in a small group together. They use the time that they are doing some sort of task, and making it into a time of bible study/devotion/prayer/etc. This allows well over 75% (probably somewhere around 90%) of those who are a part of the church to be involved in some type of small group. So, if you're not a believer, but you're handing out bulletins or opening up a door for someone, you're going to begin to experience a small group. And their goal is for people to move from task small groups to deeper small groups over time. I think this is an awesome idea, and it makes a church as big as Willowcreek much larger, and it shows their intentionality and buy-in to the fact that life change happens in small groups.

6. Balance between openness and intimacy; Goal: Inclusive Community
Do we leave room for someone else to join the group? Or do we quickly become ingrown?

In the back of the book was a leader's guide as to how to facilitate discussion and activities on these issues. I'm thinking about using some of them in our small group training at the BSU coming up in August.

Do you have any experiences with any of these challenges? If so, leave a comment!!