For some time my life has been an illustration of the ideas I'm going to share with you. I have struggled with a chronic illness for the past couple of years. Over that time, my symptoms have led to many different diagnoses. Most of which, unfortunately, were misdiagnoses. I even had times when my doctors all agreed there was a problem, but had no idea what the problems really was! It wasn't until well after a year of this process that an accurate diagnosis and treatment was determined, one that eventually began to help my situation.
The same can be said of small groups. Many small group communities can become chronically spiritually ill. But the symptoms don't always lead to an obvious diagnosis. Sometimes, like in my health situation the symptoms can be misleading. In those cases more time and tests need to be done to determine the true source of the symptoms.
I believe that misdiagnosis of small group ills is common and I am guilty of it often. Even in groups that I have led, I have seen unhealthy spiritual symptoms, and yet, been unable to accurately diagnosis and treat the illness, I just knew something was wrong.
Diagnosis of small group problems is still tricky, but I've learned a few lessons the hard way, so I thought I would give you some of the symptoms, misdiagnosis that I've made, and the eventual discovery of the root ailment along with some treatments that were helpful.
Case Study 1
Symptoms: Group members and group leader complains that group is not bonding despite their best efforts at fellowship. Group attendance wanes as little commitment is produced by stagnant group gatherings.
Misdiagnosis: I have thought the "chemistry" or affinity level of the group may be a result of a mismatch of people in the group either ...