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July 7, 2009

The Disruption Myth

What to do about four common distractions


Small group meetings are notorious for disruption. The most prominent disruptions occur when someone chases the rabbit, cracks a joke, breaks down in tears, or a child escapes the clutches of the babysitter and demands a tete-a-tete with mommy or daddy.

Interruptions of this nature can flabbergast, anger, even cause a small-group leader to believe the evening was a bust. But almost any disruption either unveils important information about an individual the group leader is shepherding or opens the door for a special group life moment.

Here are the four most common disruptions and how to either interpret them and/or utilize them:

The Rabbit Chase
The rabbit chase may be a group member's bridge to a present situation or debilitating past experience. It's your job as a leader to interpret, then respond. If you think the group member needs to delve into her/his personal journey, say something like, "I'm intrigued that our discussion is taking a turn in this direction. What were you thinking about when you started your comments?"

If you find it is simply a useless rabbit, hunt it down, blow it to bits, and dispose of it as quickly as possible.

The Joke Grenade
It may well be that the joke-cracker is uncomfortable with the conversation because the topic hits close to home. The joke is a deterrent keeping the person from dealing with the true emotions he/she is feeling. Laugh with everyone else, then respectfully ask the jokester a significant and serious question.

By the way, if the person is one of those people that hurls joke grenades into the middle of great discussions just for the fun of it, using this technique often is a great deterrant to that behavior. You'll find that, in time, they seldom interrupt the group meeting with what they believe to be "comic relief."

Tears flow from the heart, not they eye sockets. In almost every instance, tears reveal a personal issue to be dealt with, or show that God is at work in very special ways. Always make room for the Holy Spirit to do His work through the group when someone is emotional enough to weep.

The only exception is when you have a "crier"—someone whose tear ducts open wide and often without meaningful reason.

The Escaped Child
It is always awkward when someone's son or daughter runs into the room needing mom or dad. A smooth bridge from this disruption back into the conversation is vital. Say something like: "Sometimes the purest and simplest hearts are able to comprehend the most complex truths more easily than those of us who have been around a while. What do you think (the child's name) would say if they were part of our conversation right now?"

Remember: disruptions may be the avenue the Holy Spirit takes your group down so that life-change can take place.

--Anticipate disruption.
--Recognize disruption.
--Employ disruption.
--Celebrate disruption.


Rick Howerton is the "Small Group-Ologist" at LifeWay Resources. And while he refuses to explain what that actually means, we do know that he's got a lifetime of experience with discipleship and small groups.

posted by Sam O'Neal on July 7, 2009 11:08 AM

Related Tags: Disruption, Distractions, Rick Howerton


Wow, that's really good. I'm going to steal that, Rick.

Question for Sam: For some reason, the formatting never comes through on my RSS reader. I don't have this problem on any other blog. I'm using Google Reader.

Any suggestions?


My previous comment disappeared. We'll see if this one makes it.

Hmmmm. I'll have to look into that. Thanks for the heads-up, Micah.


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