Church study groups are an interesting lesson in social dynamics. Sometimes I think that the group itself could form an interesting study, as the individuals, their relationships, and the internal turmoil are played out in the discussions being had. Even more interesting might be the conversation not being spoken, but instead the unheard stories (known and unknown) that are told in the action, silence and vulnerability of each individual.
Being the minister at these studies is the most revealing, and potentially the most powerful role to play. As the one who is most likely to have met each person individually you become the guardian of each of the stories they have told. One or two others within the group may know parts of each others’ stories, but very often only one person is in the unique position of knowing most if not all.
Study groups are an amalgam of a congregation, and people come for all kinds of reason. Some come because they want to learn more; some because they are intrigued by the topic of each meeting; others because they have been brought by a friend; and others because they are looking for friendship. These widely different groups allow for a breadth of conversation, some of it on the subject of whatever the theme for the night is, at other times the discussion can take a tangential course as thoughts have prompted a new direction in discussion.
The material is fascinating. I desperately hope not to have to say much. I prepare questions in the hope I won’t have to use them. There is much interest in the planned item for study, and people frantically reading, and then I find I say more than I ever wanted, I hold opinions that aren’t really mine, I sound like I might know something when in fact I know nothing of note.
This is week two angst, I know. The week where people who have seen each other across a sanctuary are still sussing out those around them. Its the week when the real vulnerabilities begin to be revealed. So within discussion at times there is awkward silence, and a leader frantically digging to find a new way into a question that will allow everyone a way of expressing how they feel.