Gay Marriage and Small Groups

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I normally use this space to share a thought or a nugget of wisdom that I have picked up along the way, but today I would love to have a discussion. If your small group team has not thought through how to handle the question of homosexuality, then it will have to soon.

The Supreme Court of the United States is deciding right now whether to strike down the Defense Of Family Act or not. Regardless of how they decide this time, as one commentator put it, that ship has sailed.

There will be a gay married couple that will request to be in a young married’s small group at your church.

A gay couple will respond to your pastor’s call for Host group leaders this fall.

You will have to answer some uncomfortable questions.

This is not a discussion about if legalizing gay marriage is right or wrong, but how we are going to respond as community leaders in the church. It would be easy to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not there. But it is. And how we respond communicates to the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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About the author

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over twenty-three years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also the Discipleship and Small Group Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.

7 comments on “Gay Marriage and Small Groups”

  1. Mark Howell

    Great questions, Chris. Here’s my two cents:

    In my mind, how a church responds will depend in part on how they’ve designed the process.

    For example, when anyone signs up to be the host of a group, they’re essentially signing up to open their home for six weeks, serve some simple refreshments, and tell a few of their friends. Since they’re inviting their own friends, filling their own group, isn’t it likely that what you’re asking about has already happened? (By the way, the first time I was aware that it may be happening was in 2006)

    Since design is everything, the real decision point probably comes when a host wants their group to be listed in the online finder or catalog. And every church should already have a process in place that outlines the steps for that. For example, in order to be listed online (or recognized as an “official” group you may require a questionnaire to be completed, membership class, completion of a covenant or agreement, etc.

    Will these guidelines eliminate the need for honest conversations? No, but we should be having them already.

  2. Chris Surratt

    Thanks for weighing in, Mark. I completely agree. If you are open to the possibilities (ie Host groups) then you have to think and plan ahead. A good system is flexible but has a good foundation.

  3. Brian Smith

    Chris…this question hits at the core of what we are to do as Christians and that is to be relational. My goal as the volunteer life group coordinator for our church (grown from 3 to 22 groups in 6 months in a church of only 800) is to urge the groups to pursue the unchurched and those who may have a misguided view of what the church is. To accept those who are searching for truth but may be hindered as well as minister to those in the church. What better way than to accept a counter culture so grating to the religious establishment. I am not proposing to condone the lifestyle. But before we can get to the heart of the matter, we need to build trust and friendships. My goal is to use our life groups as a catalyst to get the dirtiest, most doubt filled, religious hating, calloused and closed people and show them that they are valuable to Christ by showing their worth in the group and not condeming or judging. Sowing the seeds, showing why Christians are different (or how they should be different). It is at that point that we will start to see the questions about belief and faith asked and will see transformation. Long answer…and there will be some in the church who hate me for this but I side with Christ not man…let them come. That said…our groups are inextricably linked to our church and as such, all hosts and leaders are church members (hosts are co-leaders or leaders in training so we have duplicity and a birthing strategy for future groups). Thus, having a gay couple host would not be proper since it is in deffrence to biblical doctrine and would assume acceptance of that lifestyle. While no sin is worse than any other, I believe that leadership in a life group requires certain doctrinal absolutes and an active gay couple would be incompatible with that. The key from my point of view is keeping the mean sheep away from them once we get them into church…it only takes one to destroy all the great work we do…I saw it happen about a month ago over a hat…a guy we had been hanging with was really searching…he came as he was and was readilly accepted except by one member who idolized his personal view of proper attire in a building over God’s view and was very rude to that guy. Haven’t seen him since…he told me he was wrong…all Christians really are the same, hateful. That is going to be the bigger problem in my opinion.

    • Chris Surratt

      Brian – thanks for your thoughts on this. You are killing it as a volunteer leader for groups!! I love that you’re pushing the groups to accept people that are not the normal insiders. I also agree that you have to define your leadership line and stick with it. It sounds like you want to reach the unreached – which is the goal.

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