5 Keys to Overcoming Divisiveness with Your Small Group

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In this ever increasing, ever divisive time, which just became more difficult with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, how do we, as small group point people, effectively shepherd our leaders to navigate these times? Is it still possible to have healthy, robust conversations in a small group?

Peter Englert recently wrote a great post on Navigating Political Discussions. Because this is such a huge issue right now, I wanted to add to the discussion. Plus, Derek Vreeland, discipleship pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO and author of By the Way: Getting Serious about Following Jesus, recently provided some great training for my small group leaders on this issue. They were great thoughts that I wanted to share with you, as a fellow small group point person.

  1. Respect Each Other (1 Peter 2:17): This should go without saying, but every human (including presidential candidates and other government officials) is created in the image of God, and is therefore worthy of respect. This does not mean you have to agree with them, but hopefully you can see where they are coming from. You can practice this by asking loving questions, and not questions from a clinched fist or pointed finger attitude.
  2. Live from a Place of Humility (Philippians 2:1-11): As Paul reminds us in Philippians 2, we are to value others above ourselves. Again, flowing from the fact that we are all created in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully made, we should have a natural curiosity toward each other. But also, remember that you are finite. You do not have it all figured out. In your small group, consider how each of your lives has been enriched by each other, not because of what you agree on but on how you each see things a little differently.
  3. Be Kind (1 Corinthians 13:4-7): Kindness is more than just niceness “Christianized.” While being nice is inherently focused on me, being kind forces me toward the other person. In being kind, I want the best for the other person. In being kind, I refuse to label and assume the worst in others. As a small group leader, have people tell their stories. When we learn each other’s stories, we are better able to understand and operate from a place of kindness.
  4. Listen (James 1:19): David Augsburger has this great quote: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” One of the most loving acts we can provide is simply to listen. But in heated topics, simply listening becomes increasingly difficult because as the other person is speaking, I am already formulating my defense, and not actually hearing what that person is saying. In your small group, instead of simply responding right away, take 30 seconds of silence to respond.
  5. Love Your Enemies (Luke 6:35-36): We all love our echo chambers. We all love to circle up with people who already think like us. This is easy love. But as Christians we are called to more. Our love is to be modelled after Jesus’s love, which included his enemies, people who ended up killing him.

None of these five are easy, and in my own strength, I fail miserably at these, but thanks be to God that He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower each of us to live this life. We won’t do it perfectly. We will mess up. So maybe we need to add a number 6: Be quick to forgive.

If as a small group, you can practice and begin to embody these, your small group experience will not only be richer, but your witness to a lost, hurting and deeply broken world will also be richer.

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