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10 Sneaky Sins that Can Wreck Small Groups

  • Jennifer Maggio
10 Sneaky Sins that Can Wreck Small Groups

Regardless of what type or size is of the church you belong to, it is likely that your church hosts some type of small groups. It could be called Sunday school class, cell groups, connect groups, ministries, or some other similar title; but most of our churches have a smaller gathering of believers in some capacity that is designed to create intimate relationships of growth and friendship. Small Groups can be life-giving and life-changing. However, there are sins that can sometimes sneak into the mix and disrupt or delay growth that God wants for you.

Consider the following list of common sins that infect small group. Do any of them sound familiar?

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1. Gossip

1. Gossip

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” Ephesians 4:29.

This is a dangerous, yet easy trap to fall into. It starts innocently enough. Maybe there is an attendee of the small group who isn’t coming as regularly as she/he once did. Maybe there’s a challenge that is being faced by another group member that starts as a prayer request. When a prayer request transitions into a gossip session that neither offers a solution nor provides wisdom, there’s a problem.

Guard against the desire to talk about others’ situations, problems, or behaviors. Ask yourself: “Would I say this if the person were sitting next to me?” If the answer is “no,” then simply don’t proceed with the statement. 

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2. Complacency

2. Complacency

The primary purposes of small groups are spiritual growth and community.  Busyness can be a distraction, but so can complacency.  As Christians, we have the best solution to the earth’s problems! Jesus! We shouldn’t be complacent in our willingness to not only grow in relationship with Him, but in sharing that Good News with others. 

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3. Exclusion

3. Exclusion

Does everyone your small group look like you? Have you created a clique where only a certain type of person would fit in? This is a difficult one to avoid because small groups are...small. But you can still be intentional in seeking the Lord about who he wants in the group, even if the person would not be your first choice.

Have you made others feel uncomfortable by excluded them from conversations, after-group activities, or outings?  The other people in your group likely joined for the same reason you did: for spiritual growth and community. Consider how you can be a blessing to them by investing in their community experience.

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4. Ignoring Conflict

4. Ignoring Conflict

Conflict will arise. We’re different people with different life experiences. Maybe we’re hurt and acting out. If the group has been in existence for any length of time, it is inevitable that you will experience conflict among attendees. Choose to address it, not ignore it. Take the problem directly to the person (if it involves you), or encourage the parties that are involved to talk it out. Ignoring it will allow it to fester and grow. It won’t go away. The saddest thing is in our unwillingness to address conflict and losing a brother or sister in Christ who doesn’t feel understood or valued.

Jesus gives us a protocol to deal with sin in the church in Matthew 18:15-17. Also James 4:1-12 also addresses conflicts between believers.  

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5. Bitterness

5. Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” Hebrews 12:15.

A small group should never be about fostering bitterness.  If a single mom’s Bible study is your small group, it should never be about bashing an ex-partner who make mistakes that led to a divorce. If you are part of a recovery support group, the conversation should always be about forgiveness and freedom, not past hurts that you are unwilling to forgive. It’s important that we guard our hearts against bitterness and ensure that we are teaching our fellow small group attendees to do the same.

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6. Biblical Teaching

6. Biblical Teaching

A small group is about growing in the Lord. A small group through the local church is not a support group with 10 steps to being a better person. There may be facets of a small group that involves teachings on parentings, financial management, health & wellness, or a myriad of other topics, but it should all be rooted in sound Biblical principles.

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7. Lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

7. Lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

Do not quench the Spirit,” 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

The Holy Spirit comforts, guides, and leads. He provides discernment. Small groups can be powerful times of prayer and hope and revelation.

Maybe you have 10 points to teach tonight from your 5-week study on the book of John, and you really, really want to get through all the points. Being prepared is great, but also be certain you have “ears to hear” if the Holy Spirit has a different plan. Maybe the Holy Spirit is opening a door for ministry through extended time in prayer, or maybe He is leading you to express compassion for a hurting group member. The Holy Spirit knows things that you don’t; listen. 

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8. Envy

8. Envy

"You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" 1 Corinthians 3:3.

Ensure that we celebrate the victories others are having in our small group, whether it is an engagement, a new job opportunity, a ministry opportunity, or some other “win.” Don’t allow comparison in the group. Celebrate others freely. There’s more than enough room in the Kingdom for all of us to thrive in our callings.

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9. Pride

9. Pride

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” Proverbs 11:2.

The danger of pride has killed many a small group. It’s killed churches! It’s killed passion and growth and movement and victories. Pride is when we shift focus from others to self.  It’s about “me” instead of “we.”

The Bible has a lot to say about pride and humility. Here are a few references to review: Proverbs 18:12, Proverbs 16:19, Proverbs 29:23, James 4:6, Isaiah 23:9, Isaiah 2:12

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10. Self-righteousness

10. Self-righteousness

We have not arrived. We never will. We aren’t perfect, holier than, or better than anyone. We are sinners saved by grace. We are loved by a perfect God who loves others too. Let us never forget from what God has rescued us, and let us always express that same compassion and love to others. We must never judge! 

Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom to three, wife of Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is chauffeur, chief dishwasher, carpool queen, and duct tape aficionado. But more importantly, she is passionate about teaching women how to find complete freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com

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