This is part 2 of a blog series called Leading a Small Group.
I sat down for a dinner that wasn’t a dinner, except I didn’t know that at the time.
Somewhere between dessert and after dinner coffee I got blindsided. The question struck at the heart of my ministry philosophy. They wanted something I was diametrically opposed to and had been clear on this for years of ministry, yet they wanted to rehash it once more before we played Scrabble.
Immediately I got that nervous feeling I have when I have been caught off guard and am not prepared to answer. The result wasn’t that I caved, but I didn’t defend my position the best either. In fact I had a line that was too blunt and would be referenced in an email sent as they were leaving.
Small groups in living rooms are a prime territory to be blindsided by a question. These people are in your home and in weeks past have shared and discussed things they considered personal. If people are going to complain about a staff person, leadership decision, building campaign or the color of the carpet a small group is prime ground.
Don’t embrace a cynical or extreme pessimistic view but don’t be naive either. You can anticipate some of these and therefore be better prepared to engage them. It isn’t the initial conversation between you and the critic that is really important it is what everyone else in the room sees and hears.
Your stammering or explaining away or pauses communicate to everyone else something you don’t want to communicate. The most important thing you can do as a leader in this situation is shoot down criticisms. Most of the time the critics are working on partial stories and filling in the holes with the most negative thing possible. It is your job to fill in those gaps.
Other times you will walk into a group situation knowing that people will want to talk about the latest controversy or news. In these situations don’t try to force your curriculum, get out in front of their curriculum. Set the tone by restating things as they have been publicly and address the anticipated questions as best you can.
The bottom line is that you can avoid a lot of headaches by understanding what it coming.