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4 Steps to Handle an Awkward Discussion

You’ve been there at church on a Wednesday night, or at a small group or post sermon discussion, where somebody has the sheet of questions, there’s the go-around of Doritos and ginger ale, and then comes the horrible show stopping inquisition —

“What are your thoughts on that?”

Oh, this guy got trained good — he’s not asking “yes” or “no” questions. He wants thoughts.

Then the cavernous silence, like God looking for Adam in the garden after the Fall. You look for fig leaves under the seat. All you got is ranch chips and a styrofoam cup of creamy wonder from the He-Brews Coffee Bar.

No one moves, twiddles a thumb or even breathes: Because a sign of life would indicate you want to speak, and getting called on is worse than the moment you use the table of contents in the Bible.

And then, like watching a car accident in slow motion, the leader’s neck moves his head towards you and he asks, “Why don’t we start with you?”

Chairs creaking. Looking for a trap door, fire alarm, paper bag, smoke bomb, taser.

The only way it could get more awkward is if you karate chopped the guy next to you and jumped out a window yelling, “They’ll never get me!”

I feel you on this one. It’s pretty uncomfortable to just talk deep at the drop of a hat, and an insensitive leader with a low EQ — bless his heart — will just trample on your natural defenses. No one can go from zero to vulnerable that easily. If a Bible study means to get at the core of our human struggle, then we should probably expect a lot of silence.

So, hey: Awkwardness is okay, and there’s a way to handle it that’s more like a scalpel than a broad sword.

Whether you’re the leader, or shy enough to use your turtleneck as a hoodie, here are four ways to push forward.

1. It’s okay to talk about nothing (because there’s no such thing as nothing).

Not every Bible study needs to be a spectacular, face-rocking, roof-opening epiphany from God. Let’s relax. Let’s stop asking questions like, “What did you hear from God today?” — because not everyone always hears from God like He’s a magical pixie on your shoulder. That sort of guilt-squeezing leads to spiritual exhaustion.

At times we feel threatened in Bible study when it gets off topic because we think it must be absolutely spiritual. But really, some of my favorite times have been when we venture into mindless inside jokes, what we did yesterday, the one-time-that-crazy-thing-happened, that slightly inappropriate thing that has us laughing (usually bathroom behavior), or the latest tearjerker episode of X Factor.

All of that is life-on-life. It’s sculpting a friendship out of really getting to know each other, quirks and all. If we can’t just breathe easy in a Bible study after a tough week, then it’s nothing that Jesus had in mind for us.

I don’t mean replacing rich theology with fits of giggles — but having both side by side, coexisting in a fierce rush of pulsating fellowship that cultivates memories and glorifies a Good Father who loves His kids and wants us to enjoy each other while enjoying Him.

Laugh loud, let down your guard, kick your feet up.

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Former atheist/agnostic, fifth degree black belt, recovered porn addict, and youth pastor in Tampa, FL. B.A. in Psychology from USF and a MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Have a German shepherd named Rosco, can eat five lbs. of steak in one sitting, and gave away half my salary this year to fight human trafficking. I blog regularly on my main site and my Tumblr for struggling Christians.