If you formed a new group at GroupLink, you're probably two or three weeks into the starter period. The diversity of your group members is beginning to reveal itself. That may be great or it may be stirring some conflict. You may find that some group members are wired like you and it's easy for you to celebrate their strengths and contributions. Others are a little bit different from you, so your inclination is to just tolerate them. Still others are so different that they cause you irritation.
As a leader, how do you navigate your own gut reactions to your group members? How do you prevent those reactions from negatively affecting the quality of the group experience for you and for everyone else?
I want to point you to "Cast of Characters," Justin Elam's breakout talk from re:group 2011. Justin is the Director of Adult Ministries at North Point Community Church. His breakout is full of helpful information about a topic that every leader finds challenging (you're definitely not alone on this one).
Justin's presentation is about 40 minutes long, but well worth your time. To listen to it, go to the re:group 2011 main session and breakouts page and scroll to the bottom of the page. You'll find the MP3 in the North Point Community Church and Watermarke Church Breakouts section.
"Cast of Characters" explores why diversity matters in group. Understanding why God values diversity and how he uses it is key to successfully leading people who have little in common with us. Remember what Paul wrote to the members of the church in Corinth:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
So don't ignore those differences in your group members that irritate you or tempt you to just tolerate them. Embracing God's design for unity in our diversity requires understanding ourselves and our group members. "Cast of Characters" will give you some practical steps for doing just that. In particular, work through the Leadership Personality Words exercise (available as a downloadable PDF on the re:group 2011 page) in order to better understand how you're wired. Understanding yourself is the first step to understanding why you respond the way you do to other personality types.
If this isn't your first time leading a group, what have you done in the past to get beyond irritation and toleration and really embrace the diversity in your groups?