EGR (extra grace required)

There is a veritable alphabet soup of euphemisms to refer to people in church who are hard to love.

definition of EGR (extra grace required)EGR, ECR, EBH, and VDP. These initialisms refer to those people in a congregation who put a strain on healthy relationships and healthy community. The initialisms stand for extra grace required, extra care required, emotional black hole, and very draining person. These are people who often demand to be the center of attention and who frequently have poorly defined emotional boundaries.

The quotations in the definitions below offer a variety of perspectives on the usage of these 3-letter abbreviations. I highly recommend checking them out.

If you stop to think about it, churches are fairly unique in that they are places that tend to draw in people with “issues.” The issues are often spiritual issues—for example, people are drawn to church because they have a deeply felt need to repent of their sins and be forgiven. But people’s issues can also be emotional or mental, and it’s this latter kind of issues that can make it frustrating and confusing for the other people at church.

For a person with emotional or mental issues who has difficulty making friends in other venues of society, a church community can seem like the perfect place to finally make some connections. Churches are, after all, highly social organizations. The typical church offers a variety of open social opportunities, from the Sunday morning worship service and the Sunday school, to midweek Bible studies and small groups, to weekend and weeknight social outings.

Perhaps it’s this above-average influx of people with special needs that has forced church leaders to develop a specialized vocabulary to talk about this special population of church attenders. Hence the labels EGR, ECR, VDP, and EBH.

As for my own experience with these term and with the people these terms are intended to describe, I have served as a small-group leader for a number of years, and I have been in small groups where we had one or two “EGR” persons who demanded an above-average amount of attention and prayer from the rest of the group week after week. In general, the EGRs I’ve known have indeed gotten the attention they craved. We loved them and prayed with them and stayed after the scheduled stopping time in order to listen to their litany of concerns. I hope that those small sacrifices made a difference in the lives of some of those people, though to be honest I didn’t see very much healing and growth in the lives of these folks even after years of being in community with them.

Sigh.

On a different note, I’m willing to bet that some people really dislike the idea of attaching little labels to people, such as referring to another person as an EGR or a VDP. I can understand that. I certainly don’t think we should reduce people to labels or slot people in pigeonholes. However I also think it’s fair to use an abbreviation in order to communicate that a person has special emotional or mental needs that may require additional preparation or planning on the part of the leader of a Bible study or the host of a social gathering.

As is the case with most issues involving language, what’s key is the motivation behind using the abbreviation. If someone is referring to someone as an EGR out of a desire to be hurtful or gossipy, then that’s not good. But if someone is using the term EGR as a shorthand notation for describing someone who has special needs, then I think that’s a legitimate use of the abbreviation.

What do you think? Before today, had you heard of the terms EGR, ECR, VDP, or EBH? What did you think when you first heard about them?

 

EGR n. Abbreviation for extra grace required. Plural: EGRs. Pastorese A person in church whose ongoing spiritual and emotional needs frustrate the efforts of others to interact with that person or minister to that person.
Credit for coining the term is sometimes attributed to Carl F. George (see quots. for 1994 and 1998), but the originator of the term seems to be Dale Galloway (see quots. for 1991 and 1993).
See also *EBH; *ECR; *VDP.
1991 George Prepare Your Church for the Future 105 : Some of these hurting members are bottomless wells who can siphon off all the love, interest, and energy an entire group can offer. If a church offers no technique or system for dealing with these people, whom Dale Galloway has called extra-grace-required (EGR) people, they will kill the group. Some won’t be satisfied, and they require more care than the leader can provide. 1993 Sjogren Conspiracy of Kindness: A Refreshing New Approach to Sharing the Love of Jesus with Others 188 : From the beginning all of our groups had one or more special people we affectionately called EGRs—“Extra Grace Required.” This helpful term coined by Dale Galloway describes individuals who have lots of special needs. Most of the time this sort of person has more issues than a group can take on successfully. All EGRs will show some improvement when attention is shown them and they do tend to get better, gradually and slowly. 1994 Exley, Galli, Ortberg Dangers, Toils and Snares: Resisting the Hidden Temptations of Ministry 38 : At one point early in my ministry, we had a particularly difficult EGR (“extra grace required,” as Carl George calls calls them) person on the governing board. When his term finally expired, I breathed a prayer of thanks. 1997 Milco Ethical Dilemmas in Church Leadership: Case Studies in Biblical Decision Making 104 : Pastor Sudberry recognized Judy as someone known in pastoral circles as an EGR, Extra Grace Required. 1998 Rowell Magnify Your Vision for the Small Church 326 : In my view, cell groups are not large enough or strong enough to bear the weight of complex needs presented by what Carl George calls “extra grace required” people (EGR’s). 1999 Cole Cultivating a Life for God 40 : Often we will avoid needy people for pragmatic reasons—they can be very demanding. Christian leaders even have terms for these people which we tend to keep secret by referring to them in acronyms. Very Draining People are called VDP’s. Extra Grace Required people are called EGR’s. Have we actually developed a code for such people so that we can refer to them without exposing our true intent of avoiding them? 2002 Warren The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? 149 : In every church and in every small group, there is always at least one “difficult” person, usually more than one. These people may have special emotional needs, deep insecurities, irritating mannerisms, or poor social skills. You might call them EGR people—“Extra Grace Required.” God put these people in our midst for both their benefit and ours. 2004 O’Leary “When You Feel Like Giving Up on Someone” At the Center Mag. V. 000 : One seminar speaker referred to them as “EGR” people, “extra grace required.” When you deal with EGR people, you need special reserves of God’s grace. They may be irresponsible, critical, abusive, and manipulative. They seldom follow through on plans. They fail to show up for appointments. 2005 Armstrong, Morledge Help! I’m a Pastor: A Guide to Parish Ministry 30 : Every congregation has its share of “prickly pears,” folks who are a little bit harder to like. One teacher of pastors has called them “E.G.R.s”—Extra Grace Required! But they need love just like everyone else. 2007 Michell Beyond Business as Usual: Vestry Leadership Development 30 : In small group ministry we talk about the number of “EGRs” in a group. EGR stands for Extra Grace Required. If you have too many needy people—generally two at any meeting—the group will focus on reacting or responding to the 2008 Cole Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference : Christian leaders even have terms for these people. We don’t want to be blatant about it, so we refer to them in acronyms: very draining people are VDPs, extra-grace-required people are EGRs. Have we actually developed a code for such people so that we can refer to them without exposing our true intent of avoiding them? Are we embarrassed by our lack of grace and compassion? 2008 Search Simple Small Groups: A User-Friendly Guide for Small Group Leaders 41 : If you’ve read small groups books, you know “weirdos” are called all sorts of things: EGR, or “Extra Grace Required” people, ECR, or “Extra Care Required” people, the “as is” people, project people, the needy people, and occasionally the EBH—the “Emotional Black Hole.” Whatever the term, we know what it really means: weird. We don’t want to give these people our email address or cell phone number, much less invite them into our group. 2010 Reeves Refuge: How “Hospital Church” Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever 135 : But there are always one or two people in a group who are what is called in small group parlance EGR people: Extra Grace Required. These are people that can suck the life out of the group…. They just don’t function well in a small group. Why? Because they aren’t emotionally healthy enough to do so. 2010 Brownback Purity: A Godly Woman’s Adornment 116 : In one of my former circles, we referred to them as EGRs—“extra grace required” types. I look back on that now and cringe. Did we think that we weren’t EGRs ourselves? The very fact that Christ had to die indicates that we are all EGRs. 2011 Daehn Marketing the Church: How to Communicate Your Church’s Purpose and Passion in a Modern Context 132 : All churches have some problem people. My friend Craig, a Children’s Minister, affectionately calls some of these people EGR’s (extra grace required). I am not referring to people who need patience and grace—they need your church. But some folks are quarrelsome, blasphemous, and/or are destructive to the congregation. 2012 The Livingstone Corporation Once-A-Day Devotional for Men 38 : Sometimes they’re called EGRs, because to be around them, Extra Grace is Required. Maybe they’re socially awkward, and conversations with them are about as invigorating as reading tax code. Or maybe they’re loudmouths who force their opinions on others. 2013 Stone How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World 110 : My friend Pastor Chip Ingram describes difficult and draining individuals as EGR—Extra Grace Required—people.
ECR n. Abbreviation for extra care required. Plural: ECRs. Pastorese A person in church whose ongoing spiritual and emotional needs frustrate the efforts of others to interact with that person or minister to that person.
See also *EBH; *EGR; *VDP.
1994 George, Bird The Coming Church Revolution: Empowering Leaders for the Future 318 : We now recommend the label ECR (Extra Care Required person) as preferable to EGR (Extra Grace Required person). This lessens the sense of stigma. An ECR is simply someone whose neediness is sometimes difficult to accomodate in a cell group. 2002 Donahue Leading Life-Changing Small Groups 30 : ECR. This stands for “Extra Care Required.” Each of us, at one time or another, becomes a person who requires extra care. Whether because of family background, past history, or present crisis, the ECR person needs a special dose of love and care from God and from the group. Most groups have one or two ECR’s at any given time. 2004 Morgan, Stevens Simply Strategic Volunteers: Empowering People for Ministry 91,92 : Here are some signs that a person on your team is disabling the group: Conversations during your “team time” are monopolized by one individual. The individual talks about his problems at every opportunity. He shows no interest in the issues of others…. I’ve heard of some churches that actually call those individuals ECRs (“Extra Care Required”), and they have an ECR plan in place that all the leaders are aware of. 2008 Search Simple Small Groups: A User-Friendly Guide for Small Group Leaders 41 : If you’ve read small groups books, you know “weirdos” are called all sorts of things: EGR, or “Extra Grace Required” people, ECR, or “Extra Care Required” people, the “as is” people, project people, the needy people, and occasionally the EBH—the “Emotional Black Hole.” Whatever the term, we know what it really means: weird. We don’t want to give these people our email address or cell phone number, much less invite them into our group.
VDP n. Abbreviation for very draining person. Plural: VDPs. Pastorese A person in church whose ongoing spiritual and emotional needs frustrate the efforts of others to interact with that person or minister to that person.
See also *EBH; *ECR; *EGR.
1992 MacDonald Restoring Joy to Your Inner World 248 : One does see some examples of VDP’s in the Older Testament. There were times when Moses must have been tempted to think of the entire Hebrew nation as a drain on his leadership. Joshua would certainly suggest Achan as a draining person since his sin caused the defeat of the army at Ai. 1995 Simpson It’s Who You Know 130 : Author Gordon MacDonald claims there are also VDP’s—“Very Draining People.” They are people who affect our spiritual passion and our vitality. They do so by draining it, and they do so relentlessly. 1999 Cole Cultivating a Life for God 40 : Often we will avoid needy people for pragmatic reasons—they can be very demanding. Christian leaders even have terms for these people which we tend to keep secret by referring to them in acronyms. Very Draining People are called VDP’s. Extra Grace Required people are called EGR’s. Have we actually developed a code for such people so that we can refer to them without exposing our true intent of avoiding them? 2001 Boa Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation 24 : There are the very draining people (VDPs) who sap our passion by causing conflicts and constantly looking for comfort and recognition. If we are not careful, the … VDPs we encounter will absorp the majority of our available time. 2008 Cole Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference : Christian leaders even have terms for these people. We don’t want to be blatant about it, so we refer to them in acronyms: very draining people are VDPs, extra-grace-required people are EGRs. Have we actually developed a code for such people so that we can refer to them without exposing our true intent of avoiding them? Are we embarrassed by our lack of grace and compassion? 2013 Bubna Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot 107 : Mercy is not my natural gift, and patience with the weak often eludes me. Add to that a dash of stubbornness mixed with a pound of pride, and you’ve got a recipe fore trouble. Over the years, that combination of character weaknesses has made me a prime target for what I call VDPs—very draining persons. A more charitable person might call them EGRs—for extra grace required.
EBH n. Abbreviation for emotional black hole. Plural: EBHs. Pastorese A person in church whose ongoing spiritual and emotional needs frustrate the efforts of others to interact with that person or minister to that person.
See also *ECR; *EGR; *VDP.
2008 Search Simple Small Groups: A User-Friendly Guide for Small Group Leaders 41 : If you’ve read small groups books, you know “weirdos” are called all sorts of things: EGR, or “Extra Grace Required” people, ECR, or “Extra Care Required” people, the “as is” people, project people, the needy people, and occasionally the EBH—the “Emotional Black Hole.” Whatever the term, we know what it really means: weird. We don’t want to give these people our email address or cell phone number, much less invite them into our group.
extra grace required n. See *EGR.
1995 Osborne, Comfort, eds. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon 216 : The testing ground is when people have grievances against one another. Paul called the believers to bear with and forgive one another. Paul called the believers to bear with and forgive one another. “Bear with” means putting up with the “extra grace required” crowd. 2007 Ginsberg, Davies The Human Side of Leadership: Navigating Emotions at Work 47 : It turns out that “extra grace required” is a fairly common Christian church concept. It describes individuals needing special grace and care.
extra care required n. See *ECR.
very draining person n. See *VDP.
2003 Lichtenwalter David: The Shepherd Wars 000 : Eliab was for David what MacDonald calls a very draining person—someone who saps our spiritual passion.
emotional black hole n. See *EBH.