One of the many reasons why I love small groups is that it can be a place where students can come and be real with what is going on in their lives. It needs to be a place where they can be real because chances are, they do not have a place where they can let their guard down and truly be open and honest with EVERYTHING that they are dealing with on a daily basis. Small groups need to be a place of trust where they can know for a fact that they can be real there and it will not leak out into the open world in the form of gossip. If students even get a whiff of this happening, there goes trust and there goes the real chance of your group sharing life together.
So how do you get your group to the point of trusting each other so the group can be open, real and trustworthy?
Realize it takes time- It will not happen over night. If you notice, the longer the groups are together there is more trust there. It can take a good year for a group to fully grasp that the group is there so they can actually be real, open and honest. Give it time, it will happen.
Groups that play, trust each other- Small groups should be fun. Why should they be all work and no play? During the summer, my group does not do a study, we just meet on our normal night of meeting but we are swimming, laughing and eating. Of course there are some real conversations that go on in there about life and spirituality, but from what I noticed when groups can have fun together it tears down walls. Walls that hold them back. When we laugh together, we slowly begin to trust and know each other. It’s not all games, but I truly believe because our group has fun when it comes down to sharing life together it gets real really fast because they all have trust in each other.
Leader sets the ground rules- At the beginning of every small group year, I sit down my guys and let them a few of the ground rules of the group. One of the biggest and important ones I hit on is that this group will fail if there is no trust. I let them know that it is expected for them that if someone shares, it stays in the group and the group only. I also let them know, if anyone breaks this trust that they will be having a very tough conversation with me and then with the person they broke trust with. I want them to understand that this is VITAL to the group.
Have the tough conversation- If someone does break this trust (and it will happen because students make mistakes) it is vital to the group that it is taken care of immediately. Students need to know their leaders take trust seriously for the good of the group and the leaders need to squash any trust issues immediately and have that tough conversation.
Trust is earned- It’s a scary step, but leaders need to lead in this. Why would students share about real things if their leaders are not? 9 times out of 10, the moment the leader shares something to the group that they have dealt with in the past or dealing with now, it shows students that we trust them enough to share and we are walking the walk.
What else would you add to this list?