Small Groups Chaplains

I was reading in one of my pastor books* about hospital chaplains. The author was telling the story of her service as a hospital chaplain that was part of her seminary training. Nervous, overwhelmed and unsure of herself, this is what happened the first time she was summoned to the emergency room:

“I was paged?” I said to the security guard at the ER desk. She offered me a sarcastic “congratulations” look and went back to her crossword. 

“Uh, I’m from the chaplain’s office?” I said. She pointed to a door that said NO ADMITTANCE and then looked at me like I was an idiot. Apparently my name badge allowed me to go through doors like that. 

I finally found a nurse who would make eye contact with me. I said I was paged, but that I wasn’t sure what for. 

“Trauma one,” she said. 

Inside the trauma room, a nurse was cutting the clothes off a motionless man in his fifties on a table; tubes were coming out of his mouth and arms. Doctors started doing things to him not meant for my eyes and sorely misrepresented on TV shows. Another nurse was hooking things up to him while a doctor put on gloves and motioned for paddles, which he then placed into the motionless man’s freshly cracked– open chest. 

A nurse stepped back to where I was standing, and I leaned over to her. “Everyone seems to have a job, but what am I doing here?”

She looked at my badge and said, “Your job is to be aware of God’s presence in the room while we do our jobs.” **

I've heard my pastor say that he always looks for Jesus when he goes on hospital visits. He looks for the topic, pain, relationship, fear or opportunity where Jesus seems to be camped out, and he just prays about that. So I was taking mental note about how to better minister on hospital visits and then it hit me like a runaway gurney: this is not about hospital visits. This is not just the job of a pastor or chaplain, it's the job of every small group leader.

God is present every time your group meets. Jesus said, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”*** The job of the leader is just to look for him. And know that you'll probably find him where people are hurting. As gently as possible, probe the places where people seem to be open to God's presence.

"I know you're hurting. I want you to know you're not alone."

"What do you think God is saying through this?"

"What worries you about taking the next step?"

I have a suspicion that if Jesus were incarnate in DFW in the year 2014, he would spend a lot of time at the Parkland ER and Lew Sterrett Justice Center. He would go to the places where people are hurting, to the places where people need hope. Those places exist in every small group at IBC because we all have personal wounds and prisons.

Where are the dark corners of your small group? Where can you see Jesus moving? This week, as your group members crack open their chests to share about their hearts, their lives, and their relationship to God's word, try to be aware of God's presence in the room.

And be grateful you didn't have to scrub in.

* This is a designation freely given to any book read by a pastor. I learned this from the pastor in the church where I grew up. If it's on the shelf in a pastor's study, Fifty Shades of Gray is a pastor book.

** Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

*** Matt. 18:20
Ryan SandersComment