It was after midnight on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker leaving the Trans Alaska Pipeline Terminal, struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, tearing open the hull and dumping eleven million gallons of sticky, black crude oil into the ocean. The resulting oil slick polluted the shores and destroyed wildlife in Valdez Harbor. It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Many of us can remember the video footage of the disaster: sea birds blackened with a coat of crude that grounded them and rocky coastlines ringed with a dark, oily froth… it was a mess!
You are at the helm
In a small group journeying toward deeper levels of community, a relational shipwreck can be just about as messy and damaging as that Alaskan disaster. The wreck can take many forms. It could be as simple as a personality clash that leads to harsh words and hurt feelings or as complex as a betrayed confidence that exposes a grapevine of gossip. It might be as innocuous as an inattentive and apathetic member who drags the group down or as serious as the revelation of an extramarital affair that shocks the group into a judgmental silence. No matter what the difficult situation, it can destroy cooperation, communication, intimacy, and accountability—all vital aspects of healthy community. However, just as the helmsman steering the tanker could have avoided crashing into the reef, you can guide your group safely through rough times of relational distress. You cannot avoid the struggles completely. Imperfect people will never relate together perfectly, but you can work through small group tensions in healthy ways that deepen community, help prevent future conflict, and glorify God.
Plot your course
A great way to prepare ...