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Toxicity in a Small Group

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, its not good. Every once in a while, groups will form or take on a member who is toxic to the group. To alleviate this problem, I recommend to new groups to start out in a 6 week test run. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know people, and learn whether or not you will be safe in a group. Safe is being in an environment where you will be challenged to grown spiritually and encouraged along in that path. It is a place where relationships can grow and you feel comfortable sharing about yourself.

What happens when a member slips by this filter and begins break the bond of peace in your group? It’s tragic when it happens, and none of us hope for it, but what do we do? Is it OK to kick someone out of a small group? Do we keep them and try to work out these issues? What is the solution? This is a very real scenario. Unfortunately its the elephant in the room that know one likes to talk about or rather is just afraid to bring up.

The reality of this type of situation is toxic to the group and the growth of the individuals in the group. You spend your precious time worrying about what this person will say and how they will react as opposed to investing in something good and real.

Let’s look at the possible solutions. What happens when this member stays apart of the group. More than likely, this person will become transient, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. There time in the room with others would be more about what they can disagree with or what kind of arguments they can begin about various topics, its the type of person who knows everything and their way is always right. To show that they are wrong could be world war 3, and everyone knows it too. So in light of this fact, they leave it alone and just let them be.

What happens when we kick them out? Let me preface this by saying “kicking out” sounds a little harsher than I mean it to say. A leader of a group has the great job of protecting the group. They pray over the group, pray for the individuals, and when toxicity enters, they need to be able to see it and stop it. How does one ask an individual to leave? Great question. This may be one of the hardest things you would have to do in a group setting.

First of all, we as Christ followers were called to love. Jesus himself says this is one of the most important commandments. If we are not loving, its going to be real hard to do anything else. When you lovingly ask someone to leave it can be difficult, but necessary. Mind you, this does not happen without a lot of prayer and guidance.

Every follower of Christ deserves a place where they can grow, where they can be challenged, where they can love and be loved. Normally the toxic member will not be experiencing any one of these. The conversation begins out of love saying, we want you to have somewhere you can be growing. Somewhere that you will love and loved freely. If this is not happening in the group, it is clear this person is in the wrong place.

The key ingredient here is that as a group you are growing together, you are growing toward Christ. Life change occurs in groups like these. Don’t let a toxic member hold you back from this. They need life change too, but when there are clear examples of adversity amongst the group members, there is a real issue.

Let me share with you how Christ handled those who brought adversity into a group. In John 13, Jesus loves on every one of His disciples. He gathers a cloth and water basin and washed the feet of each of them. Then in Matthew 26, we see the that Jesus calls out Judas on his betrayal. He calls out the one who is toxic to the group. In this case, the toxic member would betray and turn Christ over to His captors. In your situation, your toxic member maybe upset and just leave, but enabling someone to carry on unhealthy behavior in a group will not help them either.

I want to hear your thoughts on this. It’s a really tough subject to deal with, but I think a very important one to be discussed. Tell me what your thoughts are.


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