Most small group facilitator training includes instruction on how to dissuade and disband potentially divisive conversations. Politics is always high on the list of subjects to avoid. But in an era of change when what is not said out of polite, political correctness has led to a swell of distrust and political backlash, it is time for the Church to stop avoiding the controversial topics of the day and instead lead by modeling grace and humility and steering such conversations well. Small groups are the ideal place to create safe spaces and lead controversial conversations in the midst of political division. With a nation preoccupied with concerns about the Presidential Election results, this week is a great opportunity to lead conversational transformation.
Use these strategies to navigate:
- Frame the conversation as a Christ-led discussion.
Remind the group that we are all Christians first. Following the Holy Spirit into the ways of Christ should guide our thoughts, interactions with one another and engagement with the world including how we discuss politics. Acknowledge that the church is diverse, but following Christ is indeed our commonality.
- Value one another as people first.
We are all redeemed, living, breathing, expressions of God’s creative capacity regardless of our political beliefs. Discuss with your group how you all can best keep this in focus. Remember that creating more space for getting to know one another better lets discipleship take off.
- Make unity in Christ essential.
Take time to discuss that we are one in Christ. Christ implored the disciples in the Upper Room to focus on “being one” as He and the Father are one. He said our unity will show the world that indeed He is the Son of God and lead them into discipleship. (See John 17).
- Don’t fight diversity of thought.
We are stronger because we are diverse. Diversity in our political beliefs strengthens our witness when we demonstrate unity in spite of our differences. Our life in Christ can make our political conversations richer and more fruitful. In the early church, Jews and Gentiles came together in Christ on equal footing. If they could do it, surely we can, too!
- Initiate a circle of humility and trust.
Reinforce that we are in covenant. Small groups foster an environment where listening, learning and honoring all opinions is a must. We celebrate sharing in a respectful way but do not tolerate personal attacks, rudeness and dishonoring of confidentiality.
- Encourage discussion on what we can do as the Body of Christ.
We can take action. In his blog last week, Rev. Dr. Larry Oksten commented that “winning the election won’t make America better…, but spending time volunteering at the local homeless shelter will. Open a discussion on how the group can change the world for the better. Make an action plan and engage group members to lead and accomplish it. Help your group remember that it is in our maturity in Christ that we work together to identify issues we can address together.
- Respond to despondency.
We will have winners and losers. Anticipate the challenges and mood around the election and be prepared to lead by engaging it. Discipleship Ministries General Secretary Junius B. Dotson is offering a live stream and recording on election day entitled “Post-Election Discipleship: 3 Ways to Reach Disappointed People.” You can watch this 30 minute presentation on Discipleship Ministries’ website or Facebook page.
Esther 4:14 encourages us to consider that we have come to our positions of leadership and power “for such a time as this.” This applies especially to small group leaders this week as many you lead will have politics and the election on their minds. Seize the opportunity to respond to their needs and lead discussions that will be fruitful in growing disciples and building the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit is with you!