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James, what a fantastic article. I have seen this on the increase. Just a few years ago in Northern Alberta classis someone was caught ripping off a sermon for his article 23 exam. Not a good scene.

I can understand the temptation, especially if you are feeling pressed and not working on your own academic endeavors or at least challenging your own thinking on a regular basis. I always give credit where credit is due. Even if my whole preaching series was inspired by a book I read, I make sure people know it. I'll even promote the book. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like much of what I see on the web. I don't find it suits my preaching style. However, I may use a quote from time to time or mention that a "writer" or "commentator" says such and such and then site it in my manuscript even if I'm just using an outline to preach. Any quotes I mention that go on power point are always sited so everyone can see.

It is a challenge to all of us who preach to be organized enough to give ample time to work with a text. I think much too often pastors get stuck in the tyranny of the urgent and find themselves behind the eight ball much too often. In that case, burn out is probably around the corner and the temptation to pilfer is much too easy.

Go ahead Daniel. I think I heard that from a mentor a very long time ago. I think it's public domain now.

I like it Mavis.  I've been a social media geek for some time now and have not only deepend my relationships with some of my parishioners -- especially the youth, but we've connected into our community with our church Facebook page.  There aren't many on Twitter here where I live, but I follow many of the movers and shakers in the area of small groups and ministry.  I've taken the time to repost them on Facebook for others to see.  It is a very valuable tool for connecting people too.

I'm curious, if you're trying to steer your people to your web page, will google apps sub pages take a way from that?
I set up google apps pages for Student Senate stuff at Calvin Seminary the last year I was there, but we didn't have an extensive website like our church does.

I can appreciate your comments.  I thought this had potential to stir the pot.  All I can say is that having coached leaders for a very long time, this is one of the key areas that crops up all the time, and I do mean all the time.  I've seen leaders quit because of the frustration such members can bring to the group.  There are many times the above described members can seriously hurt the group if proper assessment and action is not taken.

For those who are participants in a group they may not have the slightest idea how stressful a difficult personality type can be for a leader who really does care about them, but has no idea how to help them and the group.  I myself have led many groups and every so often someone with some serious personality issues comes in and throws the whole group out of whack.  While you may not agree with everything Steve wrote, the article is meant to be a helpful reference point for leaders who find themselves in such a frustrating situation.  It's a tool for the tool box.

While no one likes to button hole anyone, the purpose of this article is more to help recognize the potential issue and help stabilize the group dynamics so that everyone feels cared for and accepted.  A good leader can help such a person find balance within the group and the leader can help the other members more effectively respond to such a person.  It can be a helpful starting point for many leaders who may otherwise feel completely helpless. 

Precherkid, I think Steve's intention is not homogeneity but rather some balance in the group.  It doesn't hurt diversity, but rather allows people to be themselves within the bounds of healthy group dynamics. Let me give you an example; I know of numerous groups who had a person  with severe co-dependency issues.  No matter how gracious people were to them eventually their personal issues and needs began to take over the group at every meeting derailing it finally frustrating members to the point of almost quitting.  Every meeting became about this person's problems which may or may not have been created by them.  The group was a mess and the leader was ready to quit.  No one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room, but it needed to be dealt with.

Many leaders struggle with these issues. It has been my experience that this issue is a very difficult one to talk about, but it is more prevalent than people realize.

Oh most certainly depending on the circumstances.  Each situation is unique unto itself and must be responded to as such.

Not sure what you mean by "waspish", but nonetheless one would expect certain expectations at such a public meeting of collective representation to be agenda driven for sure. Of course I don't know the nature or content of the African-American lady's diverted path either (not that ethnicity should matter), and I'm not sure if that forum was the best place to air her laundry. But in a setting like that -- which is not the same as a weekly small group that has a completely different focus -- the opinion on that question can vary extensively as to what is appropriate or not.

I think that Steve did nuance his feelings and intentions in the beginning of the article. There is a sense of caring for the individual (the reason for the article among others) as well as the group for each area he describes. Certainly we all have "personality types", but some can be more harmful to group life than others.  But you may feel different.

I would be curious as to how you might write this article differently if it were a tool for a leader. How may you have nuanced it and brought more humility into the picture?  Knowing Steve, I think he would appreciate the feedback which I would be happy to send him.

Oh yes, I would hope that a leader would be self-reflective as well to make sure that they are not the person derailing and are sensitive enough to allow the group to go off course when necessary in order to meet a need within the group.  I would also hope that the church has the necessary coaching and oversite in place to minimize having people with their own significant  E.G.R. (for lack of a better term) issues to be leading.


Having said that, I would also hope that my leaders help keep the group focused on the overall intention, mission and purpose of the group so that "allowing the group to go off course when necesssary" in order to meet a need or someone's need does not become the central focus of the group in the sense that it becomes only a support group-- know what I mean? There are different kinds of groups for that sort of thing.   For example, as a pastor I can counsel someone only to a certain point then I can say, "I can support you spiritually and pray for you, but this issue needs to be dealt with in a deeper way than I can handle," referring them to a therapist.  There may be a season when a group gathers around someone in the group to focus on a severe or significant issue (ie, a failing marriage, job loss, a tragedy), but when a person or people begin to regularly reroute the group by their own personality issues or social inadequacies the leader needs some frame of reference, some tools in their tool box to make sure they can keep the group in focus while acknowledging the individuality and diversity within the group. 

Do you agree?

Just re-reading some of the these comments and I find it ironic that while denouncing about "classifying people" you use a ethnically loaded classification and somewhat derogatory monicer ("waspish") for the person you mention.  Something to think about.

Most certainly it's the hardest since people find it difficult to admit it.  While it's never easy, I have found that if the church has a good small groups director they can meet with the group and lead an evaluation with the members.  The hardest part is when there is little support like that and someone in the group is left to raise the issue of the elephant in the room -- very difficult indeed.  This is the reason why we always say that small groups ministry must have clear vision and mission so that it is easier to see when groups are not on the page.

Someone should give groups permission to die if that's what is necessary.  This is true for any ministry in the church.

John, these are good questions worth asking.  Of course groups come in all different shapes and sizes; some churches have small groups based on principle (the CRC used to promot principle-based groups, but not so much anymore), that is people created small groups in the church based around interests mainly.  So people gathering to do scrapbooking could be seen as a viable small group in the church's ministry.  That is nice and all, but by-and-large wasn't really focusing people to grow in Christ and focus on the mission of God - -perhaps in small respsects some of this naturally happened, but that was not their purpose.  But when the focus of the ministry of the church is the misson of God to reach a lost and hurting world with the gospel and develop disciples as active kingdom members then the life and health of the group is very important as is it's focus to support the mission of the church.

Newness helps groups for sure as everyone is pretty much focused on the same page or at least should be.  Leaders direct that energy to foster community and engagement in the life of the group.  But what often happens is that enemy "comfort" rears it's ugly head already within the first year.  It doesn't take long before the group just wants to be a place of comfort and even subconsciously work toward that end.  They don't have a problem talking about God, Jesus and the bible, but they don't want the application questions to get too personal.  This is where things usually begin to break down in group life.  And it's hard to maintain the momentum of continued growth without a leve of dissonance.I think that if groups are honest with themselves and regularly take inventory and evaluate they may be willing to regularly deal with this, that is unless they'd prefer to stay comfortable -- safe and comfortable are not the same thing.  Such groups that evaluate regularly and stay committed can be the ones that last longer.

While a small group can sometimes be like a family it is not and the dynamics are significantly different.  For one, people arent' bound to the small group like blood kin and so people don't have that kind of intimacy with one another.  I think Mark raises imporant questions for groups to stay focused on the mission of growing disciples and reaching people.  If that's not happening are the groups being effective in the mission of God?


I've always appreciated something Rick Warren once said, "God is more interested in your character than your comfort." Where there is not dissonance there is no growth.

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