Identifying the Biggest Threat to a Successful Group

untitled-design-2When I first joined Theology Pub, I did it to be edgy.

I was launching a new church that I hoped would attract all the skeptical, hipster twenty-somethings. And I hoped Theology Pub might be a doorway into that world.

It wasn’t. But, it turned out to be much more interesting than that.

Theology Pub is basically a Q Place that meets in a pub, made up of folks with an interest in God-stuff and a membership in a web service called meetup.com.

At first, I was just an attender. I showed up for the fireworks. It was thrilling to observe the conversational ebb and flow, and watch how some people moved the conversation forward, and others—either intentionally or accidentally—derailed it.

But when I took the group over, I discovered how challenging it was to facilitate.

Theology Pub has been an awesome training ground for extending grace to those who believe differently. Over the past three years, we’ve had pagans, atheists, orthodox Jews, not-so-orthodox Jews, progressives, conservatives, gay, straight, agnostics, astrologers, wiccans, tea partiers, theologians, pastors, skeptics, seekers, and a few regular old Christians.

This level of diversity makes it absolutely essential to state, up front, that, in this context, all views and opinions can be expressed and respected. We’re not arguing the veracity of those opinions, but allowing people the space to explore and examine what they believe in a safe place. If you don’t make this clear, arrogant position-holders will ruin everything.

Since I started facilitating, we’ve had three major threats—a preacher, a new-ager, and an atheist. All were arrogant position-holders. All claimed to come with an open mind. But they just couldn’t help themselves; they had to be right, and everyone else wrong.

With certainty, it seems, arrogance is a real danger; it’s often a package deal. It’s so tempting to answer every question—to be “the certain one”—but consider that your Q Place might be the very first time a person has stopped to think through what they believe. And when that happens, it’s a beautiful beginning.

Because, the whole point of a group like this is that, when you make room for self-discovery, you create space for the Holy Spirit to do His work. He will use you to show how He loves. He will use you to protect them from the trauma of being shut down. And in that protected space, people can open their hearts to hear from Him.

Ed Taylor
Lead Pastor / Quest Church

Editor’s note: One of the hardest things for Christians to do in a Q Place is to leave room for group members to make discoveries for themselves rather than telling what they have come to know. Even when arrogance isn’t really involved, it’s still a challenge! That’s one of the reasons that we strongly encourage initiators to start their groups off with Guidelines that everyone agrees to follow. That way everyone knows up front what is expected, and all of the group members can keep each other on track—for rich discoveries all around.