This is a guest post by Greg Bowman (on Twitter & Facebook) lives in Elgin, Illinois, where he is on staff with West Ridge Community Church as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. He is co-author of Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders and co-founder of the Communitas Network. This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally. The entire series can be found HERE.
For more than 30 years I’ve been a fan, student, proponent, leader and practitioner of group life. Dozens of significant mile markers stand out in my journey, but none more than the first time I felt genuine love and the invitation to be vulnerable and open in community.
I was the group’s pastor, and our group life ministry was in its infancy. We were in the honeymoon phase where everything was wonderful. We couldn’t even spell the word conflict in our groups.
In the church a series of events had led to the dismissal of a much loved staff member. The rumor mill was working overtime and people were hurting. An emergency leadership meeting forced a hard call–I needed to miss our life group on Monday night in order to attend.
Unfortunately, yet predictably, the church-wide pain spilled into the group that night. The lesson topic for the night was set aside and the group spent the evening questioning the wisdom of the church’s. At least that was my take on what happened when my wife filled me in later.
I spent the following week preparing to rescue the group from the conflict at the next meeting. I had it a great discussion scripted out. But it didn’t quite go as I planned.
After the usual coffee and snacks we gathered in the living room. I opened brilliantly. “So I am aware of the discussion last week, and I’m glad for the openness and honesty we feel as a group. I’m just wondering how is everyone doing this week?” There. It’s out in the open.
What happened next is what blew me away. From across the room one of the group members looked me in the eye and said, “We’ve all been in conversation with each other this week, Greg. We’re all fine. We support the leadership and we understand the decision. But knowing what you have been through, our question is, how are you?”
I was completely caught off guard. It was a level of maturity and care beyond what I was expecting from the group. Instantly I broke. To be honest, in the three months of conflict I had been through no one had cared enough to ask me that question. And so we processed my pain as a group. And then they put me in the center, laid hands on me and prayed.
That moment marked me. I realized that I could no longer simply teach community, or lead community in the local church. From a leadership perspective that’s inauthentic. From a personal perspective it’s not how I want to do the rest of my life. I want and need to do my life connected deeply to people who are authentic with their struggles and successes and who are open to share life in the context of community.
What experiences have marked you deeply in community? Helped form your core values?