Living life together in community brings out the good and bad in all of us. One of the hard things about leading is dealing with outbursts and conflict during a group. You can be having great conversation and then someone interrupts, rambles, tries to speak loudest, or forcefully shares their opinion to the group. You might sense some tension. You might even notice that some people are outwardly offended or hurt. Don’t be discouraged. This is a great opportunity to shepherd your group together.
Affirm people for the fact that they shared, not necessarily what was shared or how it was shared. Your Cell Group needs to be a safe place for people to share, process, and do life together. As a leader you want to encourage transparency while inviting people to grow. In the moment after a verbal outburst it’s important for you to affirm the person for sharing. Tell them, “Hey thanks for sharing. I really appreciate you sharing your perspective.” You’re not affirming what they said or how they said it but you are letting them know that you appreciate the fact that they shared. As the leader, you protect the safety of the atmosphere of your group. Praise people for their transparency, even if you don’t agree with their opinion.
Quickly move on. After affirming the individual for sharing, move the conversation on. If you are in the middle of sermon questions, go to the next question. If you are eating dinner together around the table, move the group to the living room to start discussion. As much as you can, don’t dwell on the topic/atmosphere that the tension centered around. The burden of this is on you as the leader. If the conflict continues, simply let the person know you will get together with them personally to talk about the subject later.
Follow up with the individual. After the group meeting is over, take some time to get with the individual alone. Avoid confronting them in front of the whole group. It might be best to call them after group is over. Approach them humbly as you challenge them. You could say something like, “Hey, I noticed you were pretty passionate tonight. I’m sorry if I said something to offend you.” This should get the person talking and will potentially uncover some heart issues. First, address how the individual responded. Refer to 1 Corinthians 13 and the way of love. No matter what we say, if we don’t say it in love it’s like a clanging symbol. Then, address the issue and deal with it appropriately. If there is sin that needs to be dealt with, don’t be afraid to deal with it biblically. If it’s appropriate, encourage reconciliation with your group at the next group gathering.
Dealing with outbursts in your group is an important skill to learn as a Cell Group leader. Remember…affirm, move on, and follow up.
By Curtis Johnson