Contending with the Cranky Curmudgeon in your Group

If you lead an adult Bible study group, you have all sorts of characters in it. There’s the comic relief guy, the literalist, the emotional/sensitive person, and Mr. Party Time. Somewhere in the crowd you may have the Cranky Curmudgeon, the person who likes to play Devil’s advocate, and who presents stubborn ideas and opinions. He’s probably not at the top of the list of people you’d invite to your birthday party. He’s not the guy you want to sit next to on the long mission trip ride in the church van. When he (or she) decides to be cantankerous in your group, here are a few things you can do to help them, yourself, and your group members:

  1. Don’t react – and calmly respond. Don’t assume that the person’s crankiness is directed at you. Most of the time, it’s the person’s personality coming through. There’s often nothing personal in what is said by the Cranky Curmudgeon. Remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath.
  2. Find a common point of agreement. Somewhere in their rant, find a point on which you have some level of agreement. Focus on that instead of the differences you have.
  3. Listen. A Cranky Curmudgeon often wants to be heard, and is frustrated that people around him don’t often listen to him (really?!). Summarize his points to let him know you’ve heard him.
  4. Care enough to confront. The one thing you don’t want to do is to let a Cranky Curmudgeon spread false ideas, bad theology, and general unrest. It’s OK to say something like, “John, I’ve listened to everything you presented, and I must say that I don’t see how it lines up with Scripture. Why don’t we visit for a while right after the Bible study is over so that I can give you my undivided attention?”
  5. Pray for the person. It could be that the Cranky Curmudgeon in your group is not only responding based on his or her personality, but because of pain that has been caused over a lifetime. Pray for the person, and ask God to transform their heart. Love them like Jesus.

I hope that you don’t have a Cranky Curmudgeon in your Bible study group, but if you do, try using one or more of the suggestions above. If you have another method for dealing with this kind of person, I’d love for you to share it with us!

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