“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b NIV).
Make a list of the top three times of growth in your life. Odds are quite high that one, two, or three of them were troublesome times. Maybe you brought the trouble on yourself by going to graduate school. Or the trouble happened to you when multiple staff members left at the same time. Either way, trouble comes our way and we have to face it. In times like these, I’m encouraged by an adage a mentor once told me:
Growth does not come free of charge.
Small group ministry lends itself to messes. We want people to be real and to be in relationships. That’s a recipe for messiness! Fortunately, our God is one of restoration and growth in the midst of pain.
As long as you’re going to have the messes, you (and your small group leaders) might as well grow from them. In God’s Word we see imagery of the refiner’s fire subjecting precious metals to extreme temperatures to enhance and perfect it. Consider a mess you may even be in right now, and let God refine you with it.
Live in the inquiry
Sometimes when dilemmas face us we are so quick to find answers that we end up asking the wrong questions. Our desire to fix a problem keeps us from being open-minded to what God may be up to. Perhaps you need to spend less time answering questions you ask yourself about what’s right for ministry. What if you spent more time asking why God may have put this hurdle in your path?
There’s another reason we need to lean on questioning assumptions. It stares us in the face whenever we look in the mirror. When we are in the middle of a mess, emotions are high. Reactivity and defense mechanisms are deployed. We need to hold our judgments and thoughts loosely so we can self-examine and be balanced stewards of that with which God has entrusted us.
Complaining is one of those things that you hate when other people do it, but you find yourself doing anyway. Or maybe you don’t complain out loud to those around you, but you give yourself a pass in your own thought life.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Have you ever considered this verse for your own mental dialogue? What would it look like to guard your thoughts, squash complaint, and think about only what is helpful for building yourself up?
If you are faced with a ministry mess, God wants to use you to grow his Kingdom. But if negative press clogs your mind, there’s little room for the Holy Spirit.
This one is not news to anyone. We all know this, but do we do it in a way that leads to growth and development?
The temptation exists to use support to solve a problem, fill a gap, or fix something. When you seek support, do you look for someone/something that will make things easier? Or do you look for someone or something to speak into you that will make you better? More available to God? Even if it causes more upset and pain in the process?
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (ESV). Do you have someone in your life that is willing to wound you if it saves you? Are you open to the kind of support that will help you grow through a crisis and not just survive it?
God doesn’t just grow us in predictable ways. If we are open to it, and surrendered to him, we can grow through a crisis. And as we align with God’s work in our lives, that’s when we start to see real fruit in our ministries.