Leading Past Difficulty

Several years ago, I participated in a program called Leading Small Groups. Here is an overview of my notes from the program.

One time or another, a leader is caught in a quandary. They face a difficult situation, have to deal with a challenging person, or face some kind of resistance.

It is easy to forget that not everyone in a group starts from the same place nor lands in the same place. Leadership is messy.

I wanted to continue sharing what I learned from Leading Small Groups.

It can be quite difficult sometimes when someone in a group that you lead states something that you do not agree with or oppose. As leaders, we are expected to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.  Yet not all of us in leadership roles have learned or mastered these skills.

As I have been quieter in the past because of my nerves, I did not speak up as much as I do now. I am bolder in my statements and in my opinions. Now as I learn to lead, I am learning to rein that in.

God knows that suspending my own thoughts, opinions and agenda has been my big albatross. As I have gotten bolder, my tongue has become quicker. As a leader, I need to learn not to give advice, not to disagree, and not to persuade. Say what?! As a leader, we are in positions of influence; people follow our lead. They watch our steps, listen to our words, and interpret our actions.

Leading requires facilitating past difficulty. Facilitating includes paraphrasing, drawing out others, mirroring those in the group. Tracking what is said, balancing what is said, providing opportunities for taking turns, making space for others input, and intentional silence.

As I learned from the Leading Small Groups course, silence is effective, yet most underutilized.

How often do we try to fill up silence with words? I think silence is perceived as a negative void in our American culture. I am realizing now, intentional silence is where prayer can begin. Sometimes as a leader, prayer is all I got. I have to remind myself that silence is a place where understanding can bridge difficulty.

As my father has taught me, we are born with two ears and one mouth for a reason. As I have learnt from personal experience, I need to be quiet and listen twice as often and talk less. Silence can indeed be golden.

In order to move past a challenging or difficulty, is to key in on the situation and not focus on the person causing the difficulty. Move toward positive involvement.

Spiritual leaders are not responsible for changing who people are.

Leading can be a growth experience, not without a doubt hard work.

As leaders, we host the group. We are expected to invite, encourage and connect with those in the group.  This sometimes can mean meeting people who are strangers. We can encounter people who are strange to us in the way they dress, speak, act, or come across. It can be difficult in our culture of suspicions of strangers to openly welcome them. Yet we are expected to be hospitable.

“Hospitality gives without any expectation of return,” wrote Thomas R. Hawkins, author of The Christian Small-Group Leader. Adding, “In the modern world, hospitality has become increasingly secularized.”

There may come a time that resistance rears up; this is inevitable. Some may not even be aware that they are resistant to ideas or to people of the group. Resistance none the less can slow down a group process. It is an opportunity to create a safe place for participation.

“Safety does not mean the lack of challenge or even discomfort,” wrote Hopkins.

Resistance can be defined simply as looking before we leap, sifting through options and ideas before embracing new viewpoints or actions.

Resistance can come in the form of asking for more detail, flooding the group with details, going on attack, acting confused, becoming silent, intellectualizing the topic, or moralizing the situation with should, ought, need to or musts. It can also manifest itself as a bias or form of prejudice, or perceived “stranger danger.”

As a leader, how do we respond?

  • Recognize the resistance,
  • name the resistance,
  • explore why it is occurring,
  • offer emotional support,
  • explore the implications of the resistance,
  • Ask questions.

As leader, we will face difficulty, difficult people, and resistance. In these moments, we can open up ourselves to God and opportunities. We can change and transform ourselves and our followers. In time, we can move and act on a shared vision and shared mission.


Hawkins, Thomas R. The Christian Small Group Leader Discipleship Resources, Nashville, TN. ©Reprinted 2004, pp. 41-42.


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