Hard Conversations & the Small Group Leader // Starr Cliff

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For an hour every Sunday, I hang out with 3rd graders and their AWESOME small group leaders. I bounce around between five small groups totaling about 50 kids. I’m there to help the groups in any way I can: getting them supplies, filling out rosters, helping with unruly kids, etc.

Myself and the leaders…we don’t exactly run a “tight ship.” In fact we run a rather….err…crazy ship. We don’t expect kids to sit in perfect circles for an hour. There is a lot of sprawling on the ground, getting up and down a million times (especially the boys), running, wiggling, heck sometimes there’s breakdancing.

We understand that anytime you have that many 3rd graders together, the goal is controlled chaos with small moments (like, counted in seconds and minutes) of calm and discussion.

But occasionally a kiddo’s behavior will move beyond “normal third grade activity and commotion” into true disruption. If a kid is picking on someone relentlessly, or the only one refusing to let the group have a moment of discussion, or is just being over the top with inappropriate behaviors, then I have to talk about those behaviors with their parent.

Listen, it’s never easy to talk to a parent about what their kid does wrong. I only do it in extreme cases, and I’m always quick to also share that we LOVE their child, we’re THRILLED they are at church, and we want them to come back. But the fact remains…I’m still telling a parent about their child’s misbehavior, which can be an awkward and hard conversation.

Know what makes that conversation even harder? If it’s the very first one I’ve had with that parent.

It’s difficult, and maybe even wrong, for the first time you engage with a parent to be when you are unhappy with their kid. You’ve got to do some work ahead of time, so that when and if those conversations need to happen, that parent will already be assured that you are invested in their child.

How do you make those conversations happen? Here are some ideas:

Be sure you are at the door smiling at parents at arrival time. Say hello to kids, and call them by name.

When you see a kid in the church lobby with a parent, approach them and engage in conversation.

Send postcards and birthday cards to kids in your group.

Share the smallest of wins with parents:

“He was so engaged today!”

“He gave a great example in discussion time.”

“He rocked at our game today!”

“He is always so respectful.”

“I love how he’s a great friend!”

“He prayed for our group today during prayer time!”

Work hard to find ways to talk to parents about the GREAT things that you love about their kid. Even the toughest and rowdiest of kids have value and worth, and those are often the parents who need to hear it the most.

And when you do have to say “He had a bit of trouble in small group today. We talked a lot about being respectful and not disrupting prayer time”, it won’t be the first thing that parent has heard from you. They’ll know that you don’t just think of their kid as “disrespectful and disruptive”, because you’ll have already told them otherwise!

Our Angry Friends

AngryHearts

Answer: Angry people are so much fun. Angry people are exactly the sort of people I love to spend time around. Angry people are great to share a cup of coffee with. Angry people make everything that much brighter. Angry people set a great standard for how I want to live.

Question: What are things nobody ever says?

Unfortunately, while we never aspire to surround ourselves with angry people, we are ensured of being confronted with them from time to time. Whether it’s an overzealous driver, an easily offended mother in your neighborhood, or a frustrated coworker. I’ve worked in churches for years and I’ve talked to my share of angry people. Not because churches are full of angry people, but because churches are full of normal people. Here are some things I’ve learned to help me in my interactions with the angry friends in my life:

I’m very rarely the reason they are angry…even if they tell me I am. There is always another thing behind the thing. Want to test my theory? When was the last time you talked with an angry person that sincerely was angry about a righteous problem? Our angry counterparts are usually frustrated with something meaningless to most people. It doesn’t mean they aren’t sincerely angry, it just means there are always underlying issues.

Everyone seems angrier from a distance. The foolproof method to put out the fire inside an angry email, is to pick up the phone and call them. Take it one step further and go for face-to-face interaction. That simmers down the fire even more. When angry people get your full undivided attention, they usually are willing to listen and calm themselves down quickly.

Angry people want you to respond with anger. This is their way of justifying their own actions. What’s the learning here? Don’t let them win by returning angry words with angry words. Which leads us to the next point.

Angry people need love. Let me be clear, do not attempt to hug an angry person. What I’m advocating here is the love that speaks through your patient words and following up with acts of kindness. They need healing, and being on the receiving end of their anger, makes you the prime candidate to respond in the way most people won’t.

 

Somewhere to Belong

SomewhereBelong

My children have grown up in two different college towns, and it has never taken long for them to figure out which football team everyone is rooting for. My kids have experienced Saturday game days with tailgaters everywhere, flags flying on every corner, the sounds of the marching band in the distance, and the chants of so many different organizations all rooting on the same team. They ve learned which side we are on, by which jersey we wear to the games and which logos are on the hats. In the two college towns we ve lived in, it takes all of five minutes for my kids to join the tribe of whatever team calls our city home.

The excitement of college football breeds it s own lifelong tribe, but there are other tribes they quickly wanted to be a part of as well: the kids they eat lunch with, the girls who pass secret notes during school and the kids who round up a kickball game in the neighborhood each weekend. They want so much to be known and to belong to the tribes they see around them…

Read the rest of my contribution at the Lead Small blog at:  http://leadsmall.org/elementary/somewhere-to-belong/

Storytelling to Perfection

Stories_LeadSmall

Weeks after reading the book  Playing for Keeps, one statement is still rattling around in my brain. The book says,

Stories are just another one of God s brilliant ideas to connect us to what really matters.

As a small group leader, isn t this really my main objective? To connect kids to what really matters? It s the bottom line for why any of us want to work with kids. It s the burden parents carry. It s the reason behind why churches do so much for kids these days. They want to connect them to something bigger than themselves.

- Read the rest of my contribution to the Lead Small blog at:  http://leadsmall.org/elementary/storytelling-that-works/

Looking for People to Believe in my Children


Others_LeadSmall

At churches all across the world, people are learning that bigger isn t always better. While there are a great many benefits of being a part of a large church; the benefits of becoming smaller are important. Small groups bring about real discipleship, life change, and spiritual growth. If you read my blog for any length of time you ve heard me write about  how-to  lead small groups,  how-to  recruit leaders to lead small groups,  how-to  organize the details of small groups, and even pushed some  tips at you from the greatest small group leader of all time.

I love small groups, but over the past two years those small groups have taken on a special meaning. I m a pastor and a leader of great leaders; but I m primarily a husband and a father. It s as the latter that I ve seen the real impact of small groups.

- Read the rest of my contribution to the Lead Small blog at:  http://leadsmall.org/elementary/leading-small-matters/