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T O P I C    R E V I E W
smalltownohio Posted - 10/09/2003 : 21:59:11
Hello! I've just discovered this website -- what a gift!

My husband and I recently branched off into our own small group after being apprentice leaders for the past year. While apprentices, our small group had an average of 12-14 people in it, and was filled with many good, lively discussions and opportunities for learning.

Our "split" from the group was handled badly, I think. Our mentor leaders just decided (and announced to the group, with us present but unsuspecting) "Oh, by the way, Jack and Jill (not our real names :) )
will be taking over the group starting next week. We are tired and need a break." (???!!!)

Our plan, all along, was to "split" from this core group, and start our own group, complete with new members, since the members of this core group seemed unwilling or unable to leave each other. We discussed this with our mentors, and they agreed (we thought). Another reason we wanted to start with a totally new group was that we needed to change the meeting night, due to family obligations, and knew that changing the night would mean losing members of the current group.

The end result was that our mentor leaders simply stopped hosting the group, and anyone who wished to could continue attending with us as leaders, on a new night.

The group that once had 14 members now has 5 (including the two of us) sometimes six. Now, that in itself might not be a bad thing (indeed, we've found small sized groups are rather nice). But here's our "problem."

The two group members who remained with us are a late 40's married couple that, to be honest, no one else in the church wants. The reason is that both of these dear people are mentally challenged, and they have all the issues that go along with that that could make other members of the small group impatient. The gentleman has problems hearing, and oftentimes, talks over other people who are trying to share. They are also both very obese -- he weighs close to 500 pounds(which makes some people not want to have them in their homes, for fear that furniture would be damaged/broken). I'm embarrassed to have to admit that, but it's true. They are not really cognizant of the fact that some furniture might not be strong enough to support them. (Is it ever appropriate to ask someone to sit or not sit in a particular chair due to these concerns?)

I've come to appreciate the childlike faith and joy that fills this couple. We never witness them get caught up in petty squabbles, gossip, or power stuggles. We just wish others could see that.

How can we build a group where everyone is appreciated, and that would encourage new people to join? How do we keep from going too fast, or too slow, for other members? The couple I spoke of tends to need things to move at a slower pace, but I've sensed that the one or two other "sometime" group members are feeling bored by the slower pace.

Prayers/comments/advice greatly appreciated!

1   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Randall Neighbour Posted - 10/13/2003 : 03:27:20
Sounds like you have a real challenge on your hands. But, God is good with challenges.

You wrote about a couple of issues. I'd like to ask a question about one and comment on another.

1) The first part of your post described exhausted leaders bowing out and leaving you with a group. Did your pastor know about this? Does your church have coaches over the groups? It sounds like there was some burnout that had not been noticed and dealt with by leadership, causing this situation.

2) Concerning the mentally-challenged couple: The concern about broken furniture, while valid, is a fruit issue. The root issue is this couple's obesity. If I were you, I would begin to pray and fast for the right time to challenge them on this issue, speaking the truth in love. They are not keeping the temple of the Holy Spirit in a healthy condition. And in my opinion, I don't think it would be wrong to suggest that they sit on the couch or wherever you ask them to sit when they come over. As long as you are suggestive and sweet, and they know you have their best interest at heart, I'm sure they wouldn't mind. You might say "Bob, why not sit over here where you'd be the most comfortable? If it's alright with you, I think we should leave that chair for someone else."

So you'll know, I have a mentally retarded friend who is 50 years old and has the mind of a slow 8 year old girl. It appears that I am her only friend... she has made many over the years in church and at the McDonald's where she worked for 12 years, but no one calls her or visits except me and one other person who is quite verbally abusive, not someone I'd call a real friend.

We've known each other since I was in grade school and she joined the church my dad pastored. She is repetitive, obsessive/possessive about me at times, and often loud in public places. One day I was praying for her and the Lord gave me a fleeting glimpse of her in Heaven, in her right mind, and without her mongaloid features. I wept that day, realizing that He does not see her the way the people in this world do. From that day forward, I began to see her the way God does, and my level of patience has multiplied many times over.

If the other members of your group can begin to pray and ask God to give them God's eyes for this couple, amazing things will happen. The group will love them enough to confront them about their behavior and lifestyle, and not see them as a drawback in the group but as special friends. Some will refuse to join your group because of their presence, others will tire of their ways.

It sounds like this couple is keeping your group from growing though, and I must say I have no other advice for you. I'd say you need to meet with your pastor regularly to discuss your progress with them and with others and get his input. Hopefully, he will have some insight and he certainly knows the couple well and can offer advice or a plan of action.

Randall Neighbour
TOUCH. The Cell Group People.

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