There are times when your small group members will disagree with each other.
Each of us has formed personal opinions based on our understanding of the Bible, what we’ve been taught, what we value, our experiences and expectations. These are different for each person.
Not only can there be disagreements, those disagreements can get heated. They can turn into arguments. Have you noticed when best friends disagree, it can be like fireworks going off.
The stronger our relationship, the more heated the argument if we allow our emotions to lead us. The objective can turn into winning the argument and not understanding the other perspectives while respecting each other.
Are Disagreements Bad?
Disagreements can be helpful. In fact, you will experience one of two things if someone disagrees with you:
- You will change your opinion, or
- You will reinforce your opinion
Either of these results can be a good thing if the change or the reinforcement is based on God’s principles and will.
When Disagreements Happen
There are several steps you can take to make sure a disagreement among your small group members has a positive ending and not an argument with hurt feelings or worse. Here are a few of the things you can do:
Fully Describe Each Option
Ensure that each opinion is adequately described. Make sure your small group members aren’t interrupting each other throughout the discussion.
Challenge Each Opinion With the Bible
Challenge the individuals or entire group to find support/opposition from the Bible for each differing opinion. This exercise can be assigned as homework if it will be an unwelcome distraction during the group meeting time. If it is assigned as homework, leave some time at the next meeting to discuss what was discovered. This can also provide a great opportunity to discuss the importance of ensuring what we are told is consistent with the Bible. This is one of the reasons knowing what God’s Word says is so important.
Stop the Discussion If Heated
Stop the conversation if emotions are start to take over. Remind the group of one or more items in the group covenant they all agreed to (you have one don’t you?) that mentions things like “respecting each other,” “maintaining a safe environment,” or “don’t argue.” Decide whether to table that part of the conversation for the evening or continue.
Remind the group it is okay to agree to disagree on a topic. This does not acknowledge all opinions are correct. But we can’t force others to believe the way we do, even on moral matters. Also, remember that small groups may have ones participating who are not Christians and don’t have the perspective of others who are. If desired, take a trip to Romans 14:1-15:13 and talk about what Paul had to say about differences of opinion and unity among Christians.
Ensure that members are not judged for their opinions. Being judged when a contrary opinion is expressed can be the fastest way to stop authenticity and even lose members.
Lead the discussion with love for every member as the foundation of your actions and words.
Don’t shy away disagreements or stop them from occurring in your small group. These discussions have the potential of being the most impactful. If the discussion moves from one of understanding and learning to one of strong emotions, then use the tips in this article to get the group discussion back on track while keeping member relationships intact.
Question: What are your small group experiences with members disagreeing with each other? What tips would you add to the list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.