Inspectors vs. Engineers
When mess happens in groups, it's messy. That's the profound kind of statement that I get paid the big bucks for at National Community Church. And my follow up comment isn't much better. There is no formula I can give you for dealing with the mess. Every mess is different. Every leader is different. And the variables at play in any given situation are endless.
Instead of recommending a formula, let me suggest a posture: be an environmental engineer instead of a compliance inspector.
Compliance inspectors conduct audits and tell you what’s wrong. It’s easy to point out messes and deliver opinions; it’s much harder to be an engineer that creates environments where the mess can be transformed into something good.
Compliance inspectors focus on the problem; engineers focus on the solution.
Compliance inspectors care most about outputs; engineers care most about inputs.
Compliance inspectors write up reports on how well you are following the rules; engineers draw up plans for making environments better.
Engineers look for solutions, and as a small group leader, you are an environmental engineer—you are creating environments that foster spiritual growth. And that sometimes means cleaning up the messes. Sin messes might need to be cleaned—like a hazardous waste spill. Relational messes need to be navigated. Life messes need to be tended—to be cared for.
It’s not the job of the leader to eliminate and eradicate mess from the small group; that’s the job of the Holy Spirit. The job of the leader is to create an environment in which people can best see, engage, and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit. Your job as a leader is to engineer an environment where transformation can happen.