By Steve Gladen
Regardless of how good your small group is, there will always come a time when you need to respond to a difficult person. As a small group leader, you must have a firm handle on how to identify and care for each kind of difficult personality. Some people simply require a little extra care, but if not handled correctly, the difficult person can destroy the group.
In leading a small group, you are likely to stumble across at least one of these three kinds of difficult people. Here are ways to best respond in those situations.
1. The unruly person.
This person seems to have a knack for drawing the life out of every group they attend. They rely on a small group as their therapy couch, a time for them to share every complaint about their life week after week without any sign of improvement. Here are ways to address this unruly person:
- Challenge them.
- Pray for them.
- Be willing to confront them.
- Make this person an ally.
- Speak to the person in private.
- Warn the person about the repercussions of their behavior.
- Control the time that each person has to share.
2. The faint-hearted.
This person can be most closely identified with a church mouse. They are quiet and reserved and will feel threatened if called upon to share anything in public. These people are often timid and lack self-esteem. What this kind of person needs most is encouragement.
- Pray that God would encourage them to open them to open up over time.
- Understand that God is using the small group to help them build their faith.
- Encourage them with your words.
- Be careful not to put them on the spot.
- Assure them that God is in control of their life.
- Find a positive trait in their personality and publicly recognize it!
- Affirm them sincerely anytime they share.
3. The weak.
These people struggle to get back on their feet again. Many live under extreme pressures. This person often wrestles with their faith because of something that has happened in their life or a lifestyle pattern that they have not conquered. Here are some ways to help these kinds of difficult people:
- Reach out to this person a little more.
- Love and affirm this person.
- Never ignore them.
- Help guide this person.
- Counsel these people to take life one day at a time.
- Provide specific guidance.
- Give this person grace as much as possible.
- Protect these people from being taken advantage of while they’re in this season of life.
Although unruly, faint-hearted, and weak people may be difficult, God is using them to help smooth away some of your rough edges that you may have not realized were there to begin with. God has brought these people to your group for a specific reason, so focus on loving them well.
Adapted from Training Pathway: Small Groups. Check out more training videos on Ministry Grid here.
Steve Gladen serves as pastor of small groups at Saddleback Church. He oversees the strategic launch and development of more than 7,000 adult small groups on multiple campuses.