One of the biggest fears people have when it comes to small groups is how much they’ll be asked to share. The beauty of a Sunday morning worship service is the anonymity ability it provides for those who want it, at least in churches large enough for guests not to stick out.
Small groups bury that. It’s like walking into my house. You can see just about everything from the front door–living room, dining room, kitchen, hall, laundry room. It’s all there. Now there are tricks to making the house look cleaner than it really is, but you can’t hide everything.
And I get it. No one wants to be forced to open up. It’s not that we don’t ever want to share parts of ourselves with others, it’s that we want to do it on our own terms. Being forced to do it reduces our chances of doing it. This one thing, I believe, prevents so many in our churches from ever trying out a small group.
But if we feel free to share at our own pace, a small group can become a can’t-miss part of our week. When we once came perhaps because we were interested primarily in the study, we now come because of the friendships we’re forming. When we once were reserved because we weren’t sure if we could trust people, we learn that what is spoken about during small group remains confidential.
In the past, my small group has practiced Andy Stanley’s idea of sharing three people, three places, and three events that have shaped you into the person you are today. The leader goes first and others follow as they are ready. Some people are short, sweet and to the point. Others are quick to divulge deep hurts. The format gives people a framework that helps them know what to share and when they can be done sharing while still allowing freedom to share as much or as little as they want.
After these initial times of sharing, it’s pretty easy to tell how group dynamics are going to go. You’ll have a feel for who will be content to let others share, who will be okay with quiet, who will tend to dominate conversation. And if you encourage those who are listening to not only pay attention to the stories that are shared but also the dynamics around the room, they’ll walk away with a greater sense of how they can either contribute or give room for others to contribute to conversation.
So… three people, three places, and three events. A great starting point for opening up relationships in a group.