I'm not encouraging you to implement a scorched earth policy. Don't run around destroying the relationships you have. But you might have to take a risk or have a hard conversation if you want your groups to truly thrive.
Someone recently told me about a time when he was serving on staff at a church and kept butting heads with the lead pastor. They simply had different perspectives on how to do ministry. But that same person still plays golf with the pastor. In fact, I would venture a guess that their personal relationship actually made their workplace interactions more palatable.
The reality is that we have a much easier time assuming that someone has good intentions when we're friends with them. If you know someone personally, you're a lot less likely to assume the worst about them. So while you may sometimes need to butt heads with others in leadership, you also need to build strong relationships that can withstand workplace conflict.
2. You can't be afraid of losing your job.
For those of us whose livelihood comes from leading a small-group ministry, it's tempting to hold back because we don't want to do anything that would put our jobs at risk.
Now, if you're pretty sure that having a particular conversation is going to get you fired, then you probably shouldn't do it. If tempers and tensions are that high, it's unlikely to be productive. (This is, of course, assuming that the problem is a matter of practice and practicality, not principle. If the issue is one of right or wrong, not simply one of priorities or preference, then you probably need to have that conversation anyway.) That said, if you feel the need to keep the peace all of the time lest you be asked to leave, you're unlikely to make much of an impact at all.
Handling conflict in healthy ways requires the right perspective, the right heart, and the right tactics. Otherwise, you'll do more harm than good. Before you charge off to deal with whatever problem you've been putting off, I want to share three pieces of wisdom I've gleaned over the years that help me gain the right perspective and heart:
1. Mind your own business.
Embracing conflict doesn't mean sticking your nose into everyone else's area of responsibility all of the time. This was a tough one for me to figure out. I have an analytical mind, so when I see competing priorities or conflicting agendas being implemented, alarm bells start going off in my head.
Early in my ministry career, I would see these things and get hopping mad. I didn't really know how to address them, so I'd just go to my boss, who was gracious enough to hear me out most of the time.
And then at some point I realized that looking at the church from my little corner of ministry doesn't always provide me with the best perspective. I also realized that if I got worked up about every little thing, no one would take me seriously when I brought up a more serious concern.
I had to learn when to push because something was a big enough concern that it needed to be dealt with, and when to back off because the person who does nothing but point out problems quickly loses credibility.
2. People generally have good intentions.
If you're anything like me, you tend to fill the gaps in your knowledge with less-than-positive assumptions. When the worship pastor schedules a worship event on the same night I'm planning a group connect, my tendency is to assume he's careless, thoughtless, and has misplaced priorities.