Anyone who’s honest with you will tell you, gossip feels good. Gossip feels good when we’re bored. Gossip feels good when we’re insecure. Gossip feels good when we’re lonely. Whenever I gossip, the motive is always to tear the other person down so that I look better. It’s a cry for help, if you ask me. Gossip says, “I’m not confident enough in my own skin and who God has created me to be that I feel the need to put His other members of creation down.” It’s not only sinful, but it’s also isolating.
Because small groups are composed of, well, humans, and human nature tends toward the sinful, we need to be doubly cautious of our predilection to gossip. Below are a few tips to keep gossip out of your small group.
- Establish your group as a safe space. As a small group leader, you need to remind your members that this group is a safe space—a place where the weary can come and be refreshed, the weak can be made strong, and the doubtful can walk away hopeful. Gossip tends to come from a place of insecurity, where the gossiper doesn’t feel safe in their own skin that they feel the need to criticize someone else’s. When your group members know that the group is a safe space, they are less likely to gossip—they know they have nothing to prove.
- Keep prayer requests strictly prayer requests. Prayer requests tend to be the perfect inconspicuous place to hide gossip. “We need to pray for Sarah because she’s going through a lot right now…” “John got caught doing…so let’s keep him in our prayers…” If a prayer request begins to sound like an indictment against another person, you as the leader need to steer the conversation back to prayer. A few guidelines may include not sharing last names, specific places, or certain situations. If the prayer request begins to sound like a judgment, shut that conversation down quickly!
- Keep each other accountable. Small groups welcome deep discussions, but if a deep discussion turns political or personal—particularly personal about someone not present within the group—remind group members why they are all there. Pivot back to Scripture or the biblical topic at hand. Your group discussion should always point people back to God’s Word.
If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. – James 1:26, CSB
Caroline Case is a proud Nashville transplant from Naples, Florida, who serves as the Production Editor for Lifeway’s SmallGroup.com and Discipleship in Context teams. Caroline has a Bachelor of Communication from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in English at Belmont University in Nashville, where she will go on to pursue her doctorate and teach.