If you live in the United States and you’ve managed to avoid political conversations for the last few months, then you’re either a monk, asleep, or a really fast runner. If this is you, you also definitely don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or that friend. So, unlike our well rested Franciscan-Olympian-sprinter friends, the rest of us have been and will be a part of a lot of political conversations, especially during this election season.
It gets even muddier for us LifeGroup leaders and mentors. We’re all about facilitating difficult conversations, digging into people’s fears, and finding the truth together. But when conversations turn political, things just so easily go wrong or get way off track. So what should we do? How do we lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ amidst such a politically charged time?
When conversations turn political, don’t …
- Freak out. Jesus was a part of plenty of politicized conversations, and He didn’t freak out, or lob angry platitudes. God is in control. Actually, one time He called a really bad ruler His “servant.” (Jeremiah 25:9)
- Shout out. We all have political convictions, favorites, and ideas—and that’s fine. We should. But, as a Life.Church LifeGroup leader and/or mentor, you are volunteering for a different kind of world ruler. Live out your convictions, but speak with humility and grace.
- Tap out. You’re the LifeGroup leader. You can’t run for cover in the kitchen or the bathroom. Your group needs you!
Three things to do when conversations get political.
- Know the soul. Who’s sharing? Is it someone new to your group? New to the faith? What’s their life experience? Do you know them well? Do they trust you? All of this should inform the way you guide or redirect the conversation. Also, tune in to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to guide your response and help you to speak with humility, love, and compassion.
- Know your role. It’s your job to facilitate a healthy conversation. You can do this by modeling and outright stating how you want the conversation to go. You want everyone to be treated with respect, shown love, and feel safe. Remember, you can affirm people without completely agreeing with them. Jesus did it all the time. If someone shares a politically charged view, you could say something like, “It’s so important to hear your perspective, I can see how you would feel this way.” Or, if someone describes how they’ve been politically wronged you might say, “I honestly can’t imagine what that would be like. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
- Know the goal. What are you trying to do as a group? Become more like Christ, right? If your conversation seems to be derailing or getting negative, ask the group how they feel about the conversation. Not about the topic at hand, but about the conversation. Something like, “Can I interject? How do you feel about where our conversation is headed? Do we agree as a group that we want to go there? Do you think there’s a better way or a better setting to have this conversation?” Is there a way to have this discussion and grow in the character of Christ?