I got a call from a Small Group leader that was urgent. She wanted to talk about the current reality of her Small Group and how she was responding to the pressure. She got drank last Friday night.
Do your Small Group leaders get drunk on Friday nights? If they did would they tell you about it?
People Get Drunk
People get drunk for various reasons. The party life, the numbing life, the stress relieving life or the addicted life. Any of these can be a trigger for bottoms up – once, twice…oh what the hell, thrice. Burp.
As one of Gateway’s Small Group pastors I get calls from Small Group leaders. This was the first time one of them called me because they got drunk. On the surface she, I’ll call her Ruby, got drunk because one of the women in her Small Group was driving her, and the group, crazy. For Ruby it was literally emotionally overwhelming to continue dealing with a woman in her group struggling with borderline personality disorder. The emotional outbursts and irrationality were like grenades going off in the group each week.
One of the other women in the group has a mother with borderline personality disorder and this was not helping the situation. She was constantly trying to “fix” her fellow group member. When she wasn’t trying to fix her she was trying to kick her out of the group to get “help.”
Ughh…what’s a group leader to do?
Under the Surface
Underneath these relational circumstances in her group Ruby has a past history of drug abuse, an alcoholic mother, and patterns of emotional frailty as a stay at home mom with three young children. It’s these deeper roots combined with the current circumstances that led to her Friday night freak out.
Before I go on you need to know more about Ruby. She started following Christ after being an atheist. Religion had no place in her family growing up. As a young adult, college student and at the beginning of her marriage she found satisfaction in a party life. When the housing bubble burst Ruby and her husband foreclosed on their house in Arizona and moved to Austin. They were looking to start a new life together with their young family.
After arriving in Austin Ruby’s husband was invited to play on a softball team by a guy at work. It happened to be a group of guys from Gateway that played on the team. Eventually he saw this as an opportunity to try church again. He was the first in the family to start following Christ. Ruby didn’t get it, yet.
The Difference an Hour Makes
Attending Sunday services off and on with her husband Ruby usually sat thinking how foolish the people sitting around were for believing this God stuff. However, she liked the messages enough to keep coming back because they were helpful in providing practical life tips. On one particular Sunday, by the end of the service, she found herself irresistibly drawn to fully say yes to Jesus. Surprisingly, she was baptized that day. She will cry telling you the story because it still blows her mind how intellectually against God she was in one moment only to be convinced of its truth in the same hour.
Ruby loves Jesus. There is no doubt about this. She has given her heart, life and soul into loving him the last two years. When I got the call from Ruby about her Friday night ‘drinks’ it was from a place of confession and repentance. She didn’t want to respond to the pressures in her life by getting drunk. But she did. She was sorrowful, ashamed and seeking support to help with her group situation. She told her husband about it and prayed with him. She told me about it and prayed with me.
As a church on mission to love the un-churched we have to make a choice to love and lead our leaders through growing up in the faith. For those that have been loved much they have great love for others. We need to release people to lead our church communities, like Small Groups, knowing they are not perfect but that they are in process. They can create a community of love, growth and discipleship – even though they are still growing through brokenness in their own lives.
Progress not Perfection
If you have a close and trusting relationship with your church leaders they will be authentic with you about their leadership struggles. This should be the goal of your engagement with emerging leadership in church…not expecting perfection, but rather expecting authentic relationships for making progress.
Do you have similar Small Group leadership stories? What are ways you have handled these situations? What is the role of church discipline or the removal of a leader in these circumstances?