By Ken Braddy
It seems like disgruntled people are everywhere today. You don’t have to look very far to find them. In some cases, they find you. Just take a quick look at Facebook or another social media stream and you’ll find plenty of people with an axe to grind about something political, religious, or social in nature.
Perhaps you work for a company and you’ve received an ear full from a disgruntled customer about a product or service offered by your business. These days, people are quick to threaten withdrawal of support or the ending of a relationship when they aren’t happy. Even trivial, not substantive things are sometimes enough to push a person over the edge of reason.
What do you do when that disgruntled person is in your Bible study group and has an issue that’s causing the members of your group to be uncomfortable? You’re the group’s leader. What are you supposed to do?
The disgruntled person may have an issue with the pastor, a decision made by the church, or someone else in the group. Or the disgruntled person could have an issue with you, the group leader – something you said, or didn’t say. The flashpoint could have been a myriad of things, but nonetheless, it’s yours to deal with. What are your options?
1. Do nothing.
This isn’t a real option, so let’s move on to option 2.
2. Invite the person to “coffee and confrontation.”
This will be the most difficult of all the solutions for most of us, because confronting others is just not something we are comfortable doing. Meeting at a neutral location is a good strategy, and a public place may help reduce the likelihood of a “nuclear meltdown.”
When you confront the disgruntled person, your goal is not to “win,” but instead seek to listen and understand their viewpoint. See things through their eyes, and get inside their head.
Once you understand the true nature of what has caused them to be unhappy, then you can design a solution that works best. Try walking in their shoes for a while to see if they have a legitimate issue.
3. Pray for the disgruntled person.
Whether or not you agree with the disgruntled person, pray for them. They obviously have something troubling them, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with them. They’re a brother or sister in Christ who is hurting.
Take the situation to Jesus, knowing that He is the Great High Priest. As we pray for people, God often softens our hearts and makes us receptive to see things from the other person’s point of view. Remember that Jesus told us to “pray for your enemies,” and that He wants us to take the much higher road of prayer on the other person’s behalf.
4. Help the disgruntled person see a different point of view.
This option may be the most time consuming of all, and could take you days or weeks, perhaps even months depending upon how deep-seated the disgruntled person’s issues are.
To be effective, you’re going to have to excel at hearing and listening. Once you understand their viewpoint, only then can you craft a response to help them find a different path forward. Many times, people get sideways because of a false perception. Assumptions are made, feelings are hurt, and emotions get out of our control.
Walking another person through the truth of the situation may be one of the most grace-filled things we ever have the privilege of doing for them. The truth can be very liberating. It sets us free.
5. Be patient.
It can be frustrating when dealing with a disgruntled group member. Remember that whatever has caused the situation to flare up probably didn’t do so overnight; the solution may not happen overnight, either.
Be longsuffering, like your Heavenly Father is longsuffering. Help the group’s members adopt an attitude of patience, too, and guide them well during the entire process, explaining how their patient attitude mimics that of Jesus.
6. Be open to correction by the disgruntled group member.
I know it sounds like a long shot, but there may be a chance that your disgruntled group member, although not displaying a true Christ-like character, may have a legitimate reason for being upset – with you.
As you hear them out and process the situation, be open to the possibility that they’re right and that you may have inadvertently done or said something that created the situation. No, the disgruntled person didn’t handle their feelings correctly, but be ready to eat a piece of humble pie, admit it if you did something wrong, and repair the relationship.
If the circumstance involves members of your group and the disgruntled member, help those other members to be open to the fact that they may be the instigators.
7. Ask the disgruntled person to leave the group.
I saved this one for last because it could be such a permanent solution for the individual and the group.
If you’ve tried your best to work with the disgruntled group member and they won’t approach the situation reasonably, they refuse to repent, or they are in any way comfortable with keeping things stirred up in your group, it may be time to politely ask them to leave the group.
There’s no joy in asking a person to leave the fellowship, comfort, and safety of a group, but for the sake of the group’s other members, this has to be considered as a legitimate option.
KEN BRADDY (@kenbraddy) manages the ongoing adult Bible study department at Lifeway, blogs about Sunday School and groups at kenbraddy.com, and disciples a group of adults at his church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including Breathing Life Into Sunday School. He blogs regularly at kenbraddy.com.