Thursday, August 27, 2009

Small Groups & High Maintenance People (Part 1)

Small groups have a tendency to attract two types of people. One group is the GROWING SERVANT. These are the A+ people who are positive 2s and 3s on the Engel Scale. They are dedicated and willingly follow the leadership of their church. When a class needs to be taught, they will teach. When a project needs to be carried out, they will get it done. When a new initiative is being launched, they will get involved. Whatever direction the church takes, these are the early adopters. They buy in and lend their support. They are in for the whole ride, committed through thick and thin. They love their church, will tithe, volunteer and serve sacrificially for no recognition. They practice and live in obedience to God. While they are not perfect and are still working their way through personal issues and challenges, these are the people who make church work.

The other type of people who are attracted to small groups are the HIGH MAINTENANCE PEOPLE. They struggle in their relationships across the board. They rarely hold the same job very long, can’t or won’t pay their bills, have conflict with authority, and regularly need assistance from the church. These congregants generally don’t accept the wisdom of others, don’t adhere to the leadership of the church, and are easily offended – which is sometimes why they are in the position they’re in. They feel as if they are fighting the whole world and can’t trust anyone. Granted, these people usually have reasons for these feelings, but to be frank, these feelings make them high maintenance people who are very difficult to help. No matter how much you do, it is never enough. Continuous drama surrounds their lives. They are difficult and stubborn in their ways, argumentative, and are very skilled at making others feel responsible for their misery.


At first glance it seems like putting both of these types of people together in a small group would work. After all, A+ personalities can take care of the others. Right? On the contrary, it is usually catastrophic for both the group and the group leader. A+ people usually enjoy the company of one another, but high maintenance people, on the other hand, require a great deal of hand-holding care which is very draining. They will highjack the group discussion by making themselves the object of everyone’s attention and pity. If allowed, they will turn the entire meeting into a therapeutic counseling session for themselves. When given the chance, the only thing they will talk about is their latest crisis. They are clingy, needy, and often toxic.

I’ll never forget the day that one of our small group leaders came up to me at church and said, “Boy, my small group is emotionally draining. So-and-so never seems to get any better, and I didn’t realize how much time these people would require of me.” We chuckled about it, but inwardly I knew it would only be a matter of time before this leader would become “too busy” to continue leading his small group. Sure enough, he lasted just a little while longer and then simply stopped. When I asked him of his small group experience he said that he had done a great deal of ministry to others, but there were too many weird people in his group and that he was no longer comfortable having them in his home. He also said he had met a lot of new people by being a small group leader, but didn’t really consider any of them to be his friends. They were, at best, acquaintances or ministry projects, but mostly challenges because they had become so dependent upon him and his wife.

For him, his small group became another night of work rather than a night of enjoyment and growth with a group of friends.

Tomorrow I will post a follow up to this.


Samantha said...


You have some great posts on small groups. My husband and I just read this post and we both said "Wow"- we can definitely relate!

Anyhow, I wanted to see about your interest in submitting a few of your small group posts to our site

Feel free to take a look at our site and learn about our mission. If you are interested, you can contact me at editor [AT] smallgrouptrader [dot] [com] and I will give you more details on how to move forward.

Thank you,

Ron said...

I might be interested in this. However I can't find the contact link on your web site.