Chances are if you’ve ever been in a small group, it hasn’t always been a perfect experience. It’s possible that the leader didn’t really know what he or she was talking about. Perhaps the content of the discussion didn’t really interest or apply to you. Or maybe there was someone in the group who was just a little bit off.
I’ve been in plenty of small groups in my life and sometimes I’ve been joined by some people, who not only march to the beat of a different drummer, but they’re marching in the wrong direction and they may not even be listening to a drummer. It’s always a challenge to engage those people and help them to connect with the group. It’s definitely worth it, though, to see someone invest in a group and really find a sense of belonging.
But what if Gollum was in your small group?
He would get off track.
Sometimes the struggle with small group members is their propensity to get off topic. Gollum would be the worst possible small group member in that respect. The only thing he cares about and wants to talk about is the ring.
Small Group Leader: “Gollum, what do you think Jesus means when he says that we’re supposed to be the light of the world?”
Gollum: “It means that the ring is the light of my world.”
Small Group Leader: “Gollum, how would you have responded if Nebuchadnezzar had threatened to throw you in the fiery furnace?”
Gollum: “If the ring had been in there, I would have chased after it.”
After several failed attempts to elicit an appropriate response, a good small group leader would tailor a question so Gollum could be involved in the discussion.
Small Group Leader: “Gollum, what did Abraham’s servant put in Rebekah’s nose when he met her at the well?”
Gollum: “The ring.”
See, everyone can be involved in the small group discussion, even if they do their best to derail the group by keeping it off topic.
He would offend some people.
One of the great things about small groups is that there’s usually food involved. I know that I have stayed committed to small groups in the past just because the food was so good. Imagine, though, stuffing your face with crackers dipped in cream cheese and salsa or teenie weenies covered in BBQ sauce, when Gollum slinks in. He’d stare at you, call you a stupid, fat hobbit, and then walk out of the room. As you stood there chip in mouth and BBQ sauce stain on shirt, you would be speechless, wondering who invited the weird, little guy and whether or not sandals were a good choice for your hairy feet.
He would eat your pet.
At my old house we had a large fish tank and whenever we had people over they would sit and stare at the fish. It was actually a nice room in which to have a small group; the fish provided a cool setting. If Gollum was in the small group, though, he would spend the whole time tracking the fish until he was ready to strike. Then, once he did, there would be a lot of dead goldfish and a big wet mess to clean up. You’ve probably had some pretty bad small groups in your life, but at least no one has ever killed the family pet. And if that has happened, please tell me the story; that’s an awesome sermon illustration.
Small groups can be a struggle, especially if there is someone in the group that has a hard time fitting in. It is in those circumstances, though, that we have the greatest opportunity to respond like Jesus and show acceptance, grace and compassion. Everyone wants someplace to belong, even the really weird ones. And nothing shows the heart of Jesus more than when a group is accepting and willing to take anyone in, especially when it’s difficult.
But if he or she kills Fluffy, it’s probably time to go.
How have you responded to a difficult person being part of a small group?
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