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November 2, 2016

How to Deal with Problem Members

by Matt Ulrich

If you are a microchurch leader, you have had this happen; you are having a great night and then all the sudden one person completely sidetracks the entire evening by putting the focus exclusively on them.  It doesn’t matter what you were talking about, praying about, or doing… they craved the spotlight and tried shut everything else down so the focus would be on them.  So what do you do when you have a member of your microchurch that is completely (and sometimes regularly) throwing your microchurch off track?

Here are a few ways to handle a “problem” member:

1. Give them another option.  One of the easiest ways to shut down someone who needs all the attention or blurts out awkward prayer requests that are not appropriate during microchurch is to meet with them before your microchurch.  Let them get all their junk out then.  You may want to have them over 20 minutes before you start and talk through any issues they had that week.  That way when people start coming at your normal microchurch start time you have a natural end to that conversation but also allowed them to the time to vent appropriately.  Or you could meet up for coffee or lunch and let them talk to you throughout the week.  Most problem members are simply looking for an outlet and microchurch is all they have.  Give them another option and they won’t feel the need to do so during microchurch.

2. Use strategic facilitation. There are ways to simply facilitate a discussion and there are ways to lead a discussion (or prayer request time) without being a control freak.  Here are a few strategies that will help ensure that one person doesn’t set the wrong tone for the evening or say an off color comment that will inevitably shut everyone else down.

– If the person has already said something in the discussion, when they are done, simply say, “That’s great.  Now let’s hear from some people who haven’t spoken yet.  I don’t want anyone who has already said something to speak up. Let’s give some others a chance!

– You can also redirect the question you are asking to the other side of the room.  So if they are sitting on the left side and just answered, you can say, “How about someone on the right side of the room.  What do you all think?”  That way you are allowing for dialogue but effectively taking them out of the next few questions in the conversation.

– You can also call on people by name to answer.  This is something you can do to help engage your introverts while at the same time minimizing your talkative member from dominating the entire evening.  This allows you to stay in control of the conversation and ensure who is going to be talking next.

– During prayer requests, make sure the person who usually hogs the spotlight or is the Debbie Downer of the group doesn’t go first.  They might naturally want to volunteer to go first, so instead of asking who wants to start, you as the leader can call on someone else to start.  That way, you dictate the flow of who is talking and when.

3. Love them with the compassion of Jesus.  This is the most important piece.  I even hesitated saying “problem member” because I don’t want to paint the picture that they are not wanted or something to be simply solved.  We have to remember that our call as leaders is to lead and love even the most annoying people.  People usually act out because of hurt and wounds.  We have to remember that they are not trying to be a jerk just to be a jerk.  There is always a root behind it.  Our job is to help them overcome that and become whole in Jesus.  So pray for Jesus’ eyes to see through their faults and genuinely seek out his/her healing through loving compassion.

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