by Tyler Quillet
We’ve all come into contact with them…“that person.” You might have a small group member’s name in your mind already. I don’t write this to make sport of anyone, but the reality is that there are people in our groups who make things difficult for us as leaders. So let’s address this elephant in the room: “that person” is the person who dominates conversation. The one who doesn’t show up regularly without good reason. The one who pushes back on everything you say. The one who, when you’re desiring a level of transparency, asks you weekly to pray for his great aunt Ruth’s infected foot. The one who regularly makes theologically incorrect statements that you are left scrambling to clean up. The one who often texts the entire group at inconvenient hours, asking everyone to drop what they are doing for them. You know, that person. So as the group leader, how do we best respond to such a person?
In the midst of our frustrations, let’s remember one thing: They need Jesus, too.
I get it; they may be draining both you and the group. But for reasons that may deepen your dependence on Jesus, He has entrusted these people in your care. Let’s look at three ways we can be faithful in our leadership:
A heart that seeks to confront with care does so humbly and without any finger-pointing. How do we do this? First off, pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to speak, the confidence to speak them, and God’s grace to speak with. Read Matthew 18:15-16 for the how-to.
This is hard, I know. It’s hard for both those who hate confrontation and those who love it. If you hate confrontation, you need to take steps toward doing this. If you love confrontation, you need to back down and allow the Spirit to convict the heart of this person. But be sure to pray for a change in your heart before addressing this person and their heart.
When connecting with this person, don’t immediately state what they are doing wrong, but ask them what they are learning, who they seem to be connecting with, and what God is doing in their heart. Use language like, “It seems that___________,” or, “I’ve noticed___________…”
- You share a lot in our group time.
Solution: I appreciate hearing from you, but this oftentimes doesn’t allow others to share.
- You disagree with much of what I say in group.
Solution: Is there something I’ve done to upset you? Can we discuss these disagreements after group?
- You haven’t been to group much.
Solution: Is everything ok?
- You seem closed off when it comes to sharing your heart.
Solution: Is there a specific reason or person that makes you feel uncomfortable sharing?
- Sometimes you share things that aren’t biblically accurate.
Solution: Would you be interested in being discipled further?
2. Invest in Them, Even if It’s Messy
Everyone, regardless of their potentially extreme neediness or annoyance, needs pointed to Jesus. You’ve been given this opportunity. It might mean spending more time with them, resourcing them, or connecting them with others who can better relate to them, all with the goal of their growing dependence on Jesus. You and I don’t have what it takes to give them what they need. Jesus does though. Trust Jesus to give you what you need, that you would freely receive His grace and freely give it to this person.
3. Respond Like Jesus
I think it’s as simple and profound as this. The words I think of when it comes to Jesus’ response to the needy and difficult are the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. He responded to the needy, the annoying, the difficult, in these ways. Ask Him to give you an extra measure of these in your responses to and in your walking alongside “that person”.
It’s easier to just put up with and ignore “that person”. However, that doesn’t help you grow as a leader, it doesn’t bless your group, and it certainly doesn’t help them grow. This isn’t going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. If “that” person is in your group, begin to ask the Lord how He is going to use you to pour into them. God bless you as you enter the “messy” and find yourself trusting in Jesus all the more!
Tyler Quillet is the Discipleship Strategist for the Custom Bible Study team at LifeWay Christian Resources. He lives in the Nashville, TN area with his incredible wife, Cathie and two boys, Cylas and Bowen. Tyler spent 15 years as a pastor in Ohio before moving to the Nashville area and is passionate about serving churches and pouring into church leaders in a variety of ways.