“As soon as the first person spoke, I knew things were about to go off the rails.”
Often times, in the middle of my own small group gathering, I think, “If the Small Group leaders I’ve trained saw my group right now, they’d run me out of town.”
Every group has messy moments.
A distraction overshadows the whole night,
…or everyone follows a rabbit trail,
…or the questions flop miserably,
…or something funny completely hijacks the conversation.
Good training, thoughtful preparation, and honed skills can help avoid most of these moments – most of the time. But if you have a “normal” Small Group, these moments will happen.
I once showed a short film as an illustration in my Small Group. It tells a story about a father who had to choose between saving his little boy from being crushed by a bridge, or allowing an entire train full of people plunge to their deaths. (Here’s a link to it.) It was a perfect illustration for the topic we were discussing that evening. The film ended, and everyone sat quietly at first. I figured the film had them right where they needed to be: ready to dive into thoughtful discussion. But as soon as the first person spoke, I knew things were about to go off the rails. “What the heck was that???” someone said. “Yeah, that was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen!” “What are you doing, Eddie?” They joked and teased about it the rest of the evening. Needless to say, it was a flop. We still laugh about it from time to time.
A Fair Amount of the Unexpected
If your group is ALWAYS a mess, then keep working at developing your leadership skills. Learn from your mistakes, and keep going. But remember, there will be times when things do not go as planned. A Small Group should be a place where strong spiritual relationships are fostered and people are growing spiritually. (More on that here.) When relationships and growth are present, you will have a fair amount of the unexpected.
You are helping people follow Jesus for the long haul. (More on that here.) Don’t lose sleep over a messy moment once in a while.