Once men start to open up, it is not unusual to discover significant past or present pain and failure. No matter how much we try to communicate that the church is a place for sinners, fellow strugglers, and wounded people, non-Christians and immature Christians will always feel that they are the only ones who struggle in the church. Often they will hide these struggles for fear that they will not be liked if people know the “real” them.
Especially in evangelical churches, we have had the tendency to project that a person is saved by grace, but they stay saved by works of obedience. We do not mean to do this, but we do. Many churches have little help for the drug addict, alcoholic, divorced person, adulterer, the man caught in the pornography trap, and the list goes on. If you are well, you are welcome. If you are struggling, we do not know what to do with you.
Supporting those that are struggling is where small groups play an important role in the spiritual health of the church
Often in evangelical churches, the minute someone starts to have trouble in their marriage or confesses failure to be obedient in some area of their life, we react with shock and ask them to resign any position they might have in the church. This sends a clear message to the congregation: “If you have a problem, do not let anyone know!” Certainly, there are plenty of reasons why a man should not continue in leadership because of personal struggles, but the decision to step down should be made in consultation with the wounded person and the pastoral staff.
What about confidentiality? Anything that is said in the meeting is never repeated outside the meeting, even to spouses. What is said here, stays here, when you leave here.
What is said in Group stays in Group
Men who are struggling must know that their group will “hang in there” with them through the hard times, even if those hard times are self-inflicted. Men who are getting a divorce, struggling with addictions, or men who have failed morally must know that their failure does not affect God’s love or the Group’s love for them (1). Yes, we must hate the sin, but very gently, carefully, and excellently love the sinner (1).
It is important to commit yourself to pray for the other men in your small group on a regular basis. Permission is given in Group to call upon each other in time of need even in the middle of the night. As Christians, we should hold each other accountable to the standards Christ has set. The best thing we can do for a friend is to love them enough to tell them the truth.
In Group everyone is given the right to his own opinion. Everyone shares ideas, feelings, and observations in Group, but no one dominates. “Dumb questions” are encouraged and respected. Where there are disagreements, together the group will search for Biblical truth. Furthermore, honesty is a prerequisite for spiritual growth and a healthy group.
How to Know When You Need Additional Help with a Person
As much as possible, the group should attempt to help the hurting or wounded person. After a few weeks, if there has not been any positive progress made in the situation, then it would be appropriate to ask the person to meet with one of the Group and someone on the pastoral staff. If they are truly serious about getting help, they will be open to meeting with a pastor, counselor, or lay counselor.
You will need help with people who refuse to cooperate with you, who are dominating or disrupting the group or who have theological or philosophical ideas that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. You should contact one of the pastoral staff in these cases.
You may have someone who is emotionally disturbed and simply will not, or possibly cannot, respond to the Group’s encouragement and direction. People who are depressed, having serious shame and guilt issues, etc. will need additional help beyond what the group can provide. Again, you should contact one of the pastoral staff in these cases.
Small Groups Series:
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Introduction
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 1-3
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 4-6
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 7-9
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – How To Support Men Going Through Difficult Times
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.