One of the responsibilities of each of us is to protect the unity of the church. At times, youth workers are put in difficult positions where we have the opportunity to listen to gossip, agree with critical spirit and add to the problems that are brewing beneath the surface of any church. Be a part of the solution, here’s what I think are some trench-tested ways to make sure

Fight gossip with praise
If you hear criticism directed at a specific person, immediately turn it around with praise. When someone identifies a weakness, speak directly to one of their strengths.

Point them back to the person it is about
Without hearing too much, you can usually see that a person’s venom is directed toward someone specific. Gently nudge or firmly direct them to the person they should be talking to, not you.

Remove the repeat offender
You will be talked about. A gossip TO you will gossip ABOUT you. People that undermine others will undermine you and unravel what you are trying to build. This is always a last-resort-tough-call-no-one-likes-to-do-it but doing it once will send a huge statement on where you stand and how seriously you take this issue.

How about you – what are some other ways to help protect the unity of the church?

JG

This is the first week of HSM’s small groups all together at church! In recent years we’ve taken a few weeks before we split up into homes and walk students and leaders through the first few nights together. It gives us a chance to be relational with all of our leaders and to pour into and train them while we’re getting their groups off the ground.

So tonight I was walking all of our Life Group students through HSM’s small group commitment and covenant sheet. Earlier today I had a risky idea tied to it that I wasn’t sure would work … but it did! I wanted to illustrate the speed and the reach of gossip – and how it has no place in our small groups because of its destructive power. I sent a text message to a few students and leaders, and asked anyone if they got the message to forward it to a few other people who were in the room as well.

Did people look at their phones during the rest of the message? Occasionally, yes. But it was worth it. At the end of the challenge (which included a strong word to uphold confidentiality and fight the temptation to gossip) I asked how many of them got the message. A huge percentage of the group had already gotten the text! It had spread quietly and like wildfire through the room – I had no idea if the social networks of friends would extend to the whole room, but it sure did.

All it said was: “this is how fast and how far gossip spreads. :)

I hope it was a meaningful moment for everyone and a fresh take on the old game of “telephone” in the past.

JG