The Challenge Of Challenging People

What works, and what doesn't, when leading a group of challenging people.

Challenging people. Wounded people. Dysfunctional people. Each year we find more of these in the church, creating a challenge for small group leaders. A regular small group in the church might have one or two of these people, in which case the leaders can buy and read my booklet, "Why Didn't You Warn Me?" But what do you do with a whole group of people who are so wounded that they don't conform to the "norms" we expect in small groups? Recently, one woman I disciple was invited not to join a recovery group she had signed up for. I'm not surprised. She's a challenge! But the rejection only added to her wounding. What could the leader have done to include her since this was a recovery group? As I have led groups of severely wounded women, I've learned several keys about what works and what doesn't.

  • Be clear and open when inviting participants:

Many wounded people already have had problems being part of a group, whether Christian or secular. They already feel ostracized. So I'm pretty open when I choose to lead a group of challenging people. I let them know that, in addition to Bible study, we will be developing good group skills. Most people are open to this.

  • Keep it small:

A skilled leader might be able to lead a group of six to 10 members, but when dealing with challenging people, limit it to four. It's OK. It'll feel like 10! You want plenty of time to do the study and to process group issues. Plus, you can expect numerous distractions, which will reduce your effectiveness.

  • Agree to the rules in advance:

I like to use a group covenant that members read, discuss and sign. This covenant will include meeting time, attendance and punctuality expectations, discussion limitations, goals, confidentiality requirements, boundaries, and ...

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