No one enjoys conflict, but no one is immune to it, even Bible study small groups.
And if you’re the small group leader, people will look to you to address it—whether it’s something small like people not showing up on time or more serious matters like fighting, gossiping, or slandering.
Here are a few tips for leading well in addressing conflict in your small group:
- Step into your leadership. The truth is, your group will follow your lead. They’re looking to you as an example of how they should behave. If they’re not following, you’re not leading with clarity. Own the seat you’ve been given and lead with openness and honesty.
- Establish expectations of group members from the beginning. Before you dive into your studies, make sure every person in the group is clear on behavioral expectations. It’s your responsibility to outline specific expectations for your group. It could be things like:
- Attendance. You probably have 10 people max in your study. One person’s absence is greatly missed in such a small setting. Plus, when people are consistently absent, it shows they’re not fully invested. This can lead to mistrust and frustration from group members who are present every meeting.
- What happens in group stays in group. Everyone has something they’re dealing with. It could be sickness, marriage problems, trouble with kids, etc. Your small group should be a safe haven for people to share without fear of gossip.
- Be on time. You’re only together as a group for a limited amount of time. It’s important to begin and end when you say you will. Make sure your group understands this is important. It’s also your responsibility as the leader to facilitate the study, keep people from monopolizing the conversation, and redirect topics if needed.
- Address conflict promptly—but take it outside the group. No one likes to have difficult conversations. It’s uncomfortable to call someone out when they have fallen short of group expectations. Here’s the good news: you’ve already set up group guidelines, so you have a built-in way to begin the conversation. Make sure you honor the person’s privacy by addressing the behavior outside of the group.
You might ask the person to arrive at group early or stay for a few minutes after so you can talk. Here’s an example of how you could frame the conversation: “Sam, do you remember when we talked about group expectations before we started? One of the guidelines is what happens in group stays in group. You mentioned sharing Emily’s story with your best friend, and my concern is for Emily’s privacy and her feeling safe to share. Would you like to tell me about your decision to tell your friend?”
You may need to mediate a fight between group members. Remember: you’re never going into these conversations alone. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you with every decision and statement. He’ll let you know what needs to be addressed. It’s your job to facilitate—it’s God’s job to work on hearts.
Multiple chapters—even entire books of the Bible—were written to help us address relationship problems with one another. Having these crucial conversations will not only help you grow closer to God but will also help people you talk to understand and correct hurtful behaviors.
It’s all part of spiritual growth.