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Community Killers: Part One (Commitment)

This is episode One of a short series regarding group dynamics which I'm working on for our church LIFEGroups. I'll post each segment as I finish writing them. The four complications are:
  • Commitment (or lack thereof)
  • Crisis
  • Conflict
  • Complaining
First up, COMMITMENT.

CommitmentNothing will hamper a group’s efforts to grow like a lack of commitment from group members. While it will always be true that different group members will exhibit different levels of commitment to the group, a potentially harmful experience can develop if one or more group members demonstrate a significant lack of commitment to the group. This lack of commitment might exhibit itself in at least three different ways: attendance patterns, participation habits, and relational development.

Attendance. In the best possible world, every group member would be present every time the group gathers. In the real world, attendance patterns can range from the always present to the nearly always absent. For those who are not deeply committed to group life, attendance will be a low priority, resulting in the type of in-and-out pattern which can become disruptive to the group’s growth.

Participation. It is possible that a person could have a perfect attendance record, yet still demonstrate a lack of commitment by never participating in group life. However, just because someone isn’t participating, doesn’t mean they aren’t committed. For some, quiet observation and contemplation during group time can be a very meaningful experience. However, commitment to the group requires every member to be willing to step outside their “comfort zone” from time to time and find a way to be a participant in group gatherings as well as the lives of the other group members.

Relationships. A crucial element of group growth is the relationships that are developed outside the scheduled group gatherings. A group cannot reach its potential unless the individuals within the group are making an effort to build into one another’s lives on a regular basis. While some may not consider “group life” to extend beyond meeting times, a lack of commitment to one another in all aspects of life will significantly hamper the group’s growth.

How can a group leader foster a high degree of commitment in their group? Realistically, no one can force another person to commit to something. Commitment happens when a person is so convinced of the value of something that they are willing to prioritize that activity.

A group leader should, along with the group, develop a culture of “necessity”. This can initially happen by asking the group to answer the question, “Why do we need this group?” As each person shares the reasons they need the group (spiritual, emotional, relational, etc.), the rest of the group can begin to formulate in their mind what level of commitment will be necessary to successfully grow the group based on the needs of the individual members.

Over time, the group should continue to discuss (occasionally returning to the “need” question) what they should agree to be committed to. Particularly helpful in these discussions would be an effort to come to clear agreement among all group members as to what the commitment expectations should be. This allows each member to consider whether or not they are able or willing to make the necessary commitments to continue on with the group.

A short note of clarification: Groups that only exist to “meet needs” will eventually implode. While discussing the needs of each group member, it is important for the rest of the group to function as a filter to steer one another way from self-absorption. The group should also take time to discuss what the Bible says each person needs.

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