Gossip often starts at the Small Group level and needs to be stopped before it escalates. As Small Group Leaders we know that one of our roles is to prevent gossip , but often we do not know how to deal with it or where to start. Here are 3 tips shared by Allen White in a post on churchleaders.com to help you eliminate in your group.
1. Be Proactive.
Even though your group is filled with wonderful people, the first place to deal with gossip is on the first day of the group. As your group talks about their group values, you should formulate a group agreement. These are simply the things the entire group agrees to. This can include when and where the group meets, the frequency of meetings, childcare, etc.
A key value for your group is confidentiality. What is said in the group needs to stay in the group. Period. Your group should be declared “Las Vegas.” Nothing in the group—comment, prayer request, joke or off-the-cuff remark—should be repeated outside of the group.
Sometimes, the rules get blurry. Let’s say a group member requests prayer for a mutual friend—let’s call her Jane—who is not in the group. Jane is having some tests for a serious health problem. One day, you bump into Jane’s husband and tell him you are praying for Jane and her health issues. The problem is Jane hasn’t said anything to her husband. She was afraid the news would affect his heart condition, so she didn’t want to worry him unnecessarily. (This is a fictitious story. I am not telling tales out of school here.) Now, you get the picture.
Gossip, as benign as it might seem, is a missile that will sink the whole ship. Who would ever share another prayer request or personal issue in front of someone they feel they can’t trust? If the group starts to lack trust, relationships will start to brake down. There is no more group. Confidentiality is the foundation of group life and must be preserved at all cost!
2. Even Gossip in the Group About Others Is Dangerous.
Gossip shuts down trust. Even if the gossip is about someone outside of the group, it certainly makes the group wonder what this person says about them behind their backs. Gossip of any kind will diminish trust in the group. If the group lacks trust, then the members will not open up. The leader should redirect the gossiping member with, “Let’s keep our discussion to those present in the group.” Then, take the member aside and personally talk to them about gossiping and the harm it can bring to a group.
What is gossip? Well, the rule of thumb is that if the person you are talking to is not part of the problem or part of the solution, then it’s gossip.
3. Act Quickly.
If something about your group is told outside of the group, deal with it as soon as you are aware of an incident of gossip. Few other issues are as harmful as gossip in a small group. But if the leader deals with the issue quickly, chances are the group will remain strong. If the issue is not dealt with, it won’t go away. In fact, it will become a greater problem.