When people are together in long-term group relationships there will invariably be accusations of wrong doing which can cause destructive conflict. This is an unfortunate reality of the human condition… but this doesn't have to kill your group relationship or church. Here are some helpful principles.
1. When an accusation against someone is made in your presence focus your attention on the accuser—not the accused. Focusing first on the accused is unjust. The accuser should be required to give clear evidence supporting the accusation to someone who has the authority to hear and respond to the evidence (jurisdiction). Listening to accusations when you have no jurisdiction is not only unjust it is similar to allowing someone to dump garbage on your lawn which you can't remove. Since you can't do anything about it the garbage just sits in the front yard of your mind. So:
2. You should be aware of the people who have jurisdiction to hear and resolve accusations in your group. When you know who has jurisdiction you can use a process question to politely preempt the accuser before the details of the accusation are spilled out. What’s a process question? Keep reading.
3. A process question will open the door to inform the accuser of accepted methods to resolve conflict in your group. A process question could be, “Did you know we have a method to effectively deal with accusations?” The answer, “No I didn’t.” opens the door for you to educate the accuser on the methods used in your group to resolve differences. If the answer is, “Yes, but…” then you have someone who is either unwilling or unable to resolve the conflict in a normal fashion. It is possible this person just wants to spread trash about someone without being accountable. But it is also possible this person has information about child abuse, or some other serious crime. Either way this accuser should be directed to someone who can assist them with their dilemma.
4. When the appropriate authority is involved leave the matter in the Lord’s hands. Let’s say the accused is guilty, but the evidence doesn’t meet the required standard, so the accused “gets away with it.” We must remember that God is aware of every wrong. No one “gets away” with anything, but for human justice to function there must be standards and order. The maintenance of justice is more important than any individual wrong.
5. If you don't have clear methods to handle accusations in your group it is best to take care of this before the accusations come... and they will come. If your group is not properly prepared then its days are numbered.