As a home group leader you hope you will have a happy group of people, all growing fervently in their relationship with Jesus. And that is the case most of the time. However, there will be occasions when there is conflict with or between others. How do you keep the peace so things don’t blow up? Do you ignore it, laugh it off, or come down strong? Consider these principles.
Everyone has an opinion, like everyone has a nose. Sometimes the solution, when there are differences noted, is to let it slide by, because no one thinks the remark was very important and it was taken as merely an opinion. Someone says, “Did you see Andrew Luck this weekend? They should send him back to Stanford!” Well, that is just an opinion and comes from a disgruntled Colts fan. That probably could be laughed off, but continued grumbling should be addressed at least outside of the group (Phil. 2:14). There are other times, when many contrary opinions are made, that the leader needs to say with a smile, “I see we have many healthy opinions tonight, let’s bring our discussion back to the topic.”
Failure to Recognize a Contribution
You do not need to recognize every contribution, especially when it is from someone who talks frequently, however, when it is from someone who “never” says anything, failure to recognize a contribution can create conflict. If the rest of the participants are ignoring a particular person, then the home group leader must acknowledge it and consider the dynamics behind everyone’s actions.
Controllers create conflict, because people can get tired of one or a few individuals who do most of the talking. There is a separate article on “Dealing with controlling talkers,” and it is primarily up to the leader to mediate and help all the participants contribute and join into the discussion.
Hostility toward or from a person
Some people have a difficult disposition in life. They may have been rubbed the wrong way too many times that day or month, but they don’t even realize the hostility they convey toward others. That is best dealt with after the group time and possibly at a different occasion, but before the next meeting. Some people work in rough environments and they do not realize how rough they are, because it is normal with the other people they are around. I found this true serving in the military. As a chaplain, I knew I was in a fish bowl, but years before when I served as an infantryman and even a pilot, I was often tempted to let my moral compass guide me away from true north.
Rudeness is one of those “acceptable sins” in some perspectives, but not before the Lord. Rudeness can create conflict and cause great problems. One person’s level of rudeness may not be another’s, especially because of varying backgrounds as previously stated. Some people don’t think anything of interrupting another person while they are talking, while most people realize that is rude and wrong. Interestingly, Paul said, “…love does not behave rudely…” (1 Cor. 13:4) It may be necessary to mention something in the group, but best to address the person outside of the group.
Inappropriate humor is one easy way to create conflict. There are many jokes, racial comments, sexist statements and “cute cuts” which are totally inappropriate. “Cute cuts” are intended to be impersonal “put downs” said in a joking way. They are inappropriate, because while friends can joke around, you never know how everyone will take the “cute cut” and then add to it. They are very much like Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, “Therefore, if food [cute cuts] makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Cor. 8:13 NKJ) Laughter is important in home group, but inappropriate humor is not.
Personal Agendas that Overshadow the Study
Home group is a great place to learn backgrounds of people, because it draws them together. However, personal agendas can often overshadow the study and create conflict. It may be election time and someone is trying to win votes for the candidate or maybe they are trying to help people see a need for their “product.” Be relaxed, but come alongside the person to see that the home group is about growing in a relationship with Jesus, not a personal agenda. Home group is certainly an appropriate place to guide people on values to vote for and even with stewardship of good products. However, it is not the place to pursue personal profit!
Many people have unfair or inappropriate expectations. They may expect the pastor’s wife to play the piano, the leader to buy all the food, or they may want to be able to “have it their way.” These expectations merely reveal the spiritual level of a person, because his attention is on self, rather than on others. Come alongside the person outside of the group and see if you can determine what the real heart issue is.
Most people act in a civilized manner most of the time, but there is a range of personal behavior that may push buttons. For example, when people clip their fingernails, or cough with their mouth open and uncovered, or crack their gum while chewing it, or come in with dirty shoes and not consider taking them off, or,…. well, you’ve seen the behaviors. When someone comes in and hasn’t showered for three days, it may be a tough time for him, but it is an opportunity to come alongside of him to see if he needs some compassionate help. Any of these behaviors can create conflict in the group and you as the home group leader will have the opportunity to compassionately come alongside the person and help him see what effect his actions are having on the rest of the group.
Very few of us like conflict, but we need to be aware that where ever there are people, there is the potential of conflict. Practice self-control and the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension and you’ll guide your home group through any murky conflict!