What About Alcohol at Group Meetings?

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Great question this morning in my email inbox:

I don’t know how to address the issue of alcohol that is being served at small group meetings.  Do you see alcohol consumption, in moderation, as a problem at small groups?  I’m not coming at this from a judgmental standpoint.  I don’ t have a problem with folks who wish to drink alcohol outside of their group time, in moderation.  However, it doesn’t seem to be a healthy thing for group leaders to allow during their weekly meeting.

Here’s my answer:

There are two key questions that must be asked.  First, what’s your church’s position on alcohol?  Second question has to do with who’s in your group?  From the standpoint of giving preference to the stumbling issues of members, individual freedoms might need to be set aside.  I’ve talked about it with our leaders by teaching on Phil. 2:3-4.

What do you think?

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  1. Ben on September 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Mark, I agree with you on this, but where does it stop? Should we also ban things like TV watching, secular music being played, and caffeinated drinks because there are some people who may struggle with overindulgence?
    I’m not trying to be argumentative, just fair and biblical to small group leaders who are serving the Lord with all that they’ve got.

  2. Mark Howell on September 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Great questions! Where does it stop? I actually think it’s more of a “where does it start” discussion. Like the Apostle Paul, all of us ought to be in a life-long journey where we are constantly changing and becoming more and more like Christ. At the same time, Jesus regularly found ways to hang with folks who didn’t yet have it all figured out. He had great freedom, could have done anything, but set His own interests aside for the sake of others.
    On the very personal front, I love Lost and The Closer, listen to U2, Coldplay and the Eagles, need a couple great cups of coffee every morning (not to mention a real affection for chocolate). And yet…as much as I enjoy the freedom to savor those things…I need to be willing to set them aside if they might cause someone to stumble.
    Great questions! Love the dialogue. Also love to be on the journey with people who are really trying to figure this thing out.

  3. Ben on September 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Good thoughts, Mark. But can we, as small group leaders/coaches/pastors, forbid what Scripture has not expressly forbid? I might think it’s the wise choice to not watch The Closer because I think it’s wrong to do so, but it doesn’t necessarily make me more spiritual. Instead, Paul may be saying the opposite in 1 Corinthians 10, that those who had a strong conscience should bear with the weak, and that the weak should work to change their consciences! Paul never condemns the act in question. He urges us to change our minds, our consciences (what we feel to be right), so that what we feel to be right/wrong is in line with Scripture. So, it right for us to condemn what God’s Word hasn’t?

  4. Mark Howell on September 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Clearly a challenge. Back to the beginning, your church’s convictions (no doubt based on a scriptural position) will form the basis for what you ask your leaders to do (or not do). Not the place for idealism. Pragmatic evaluation of convictions and then teaching small group leaders how to exercise grace and truth is at the heart of decentralized ministry.

  5. Jay Daniell on October 1, 2008 at 11:13 am

    God must want me to be breif on this issue. I was mostly through a multi-page disortation on this when I hit the wrong button and lost it all….
    If small groups are an entry point into the Kingdom, and if we are trying to attact those who who are lost, and if in our local culture alcohol use is a vice used by many, then it would seem logical to allow people to take next steps in their spiritual journey beginning from where they are. This might mean setting aside our personal convictions in order to be used by God to influence the culture around us. It would seem that Paul had similar feelings as he describes in 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23.

  6. Mark Howell on October 2, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Love the alternate take! I have definitely known small group leaders (and churches) where that would be part of their culture and strategy. It would make it easier for some people to “fit in.” At the same time, it adds a variable to the success of a group (disciplined participation) that is not always easy to manage.
    I’ve found it easier for churches to take the “not at a group meeting” stance, but that may be my own roots talking!