In the age of Photoshop and curated feeds it has become normal to only publish what we want people to see.
I don’t know about you, but after years of doing this myself I came up feeling empty and lonely. I longed to feel like I could be myself without the need to hide behind a mask or stand protected behind a wall. These precious relationships can only flourish by being vulnerable and sharing real struggles with others.
Does this characterize the relationships that you have with those in your Small Group? Are you leading by sharing openly with those in your group?
Breaking the Pattern
In his excellent book, Made for Friendship, Drew Hunter argues that a lack of sharing sin struggles contributes to a hollow view of friendship.
“[When we] don’t share our struggle with sin…the pattern becomes increasingly difficult to break. To share something disappointing or personally shameful would jar the conversation. And so, we acquire the art of acquaintanceship but fail to forge real friendship.” p. 29
As ministry leaders, you have the unique opportunity to speak into people’s lives. A way for you to connect and build trust in a relationship is by sharing where you have failed. Only a willingness to plunge the depths in conversations can foster an environment for true friendship. By sharing where you fell short, you can sustain long-lasting relationships.
You Set the Tone in Your Group
If you are feeling a lack of genuineness and depth in your group, break the silence by setting the tone. Be the first to share your struggles. Taking the first step shows those in your group that you are willing to take a leap and it’s safe for them to do so as well.
God has placed those specifically in your group for a season. Be willing to speak of your failures first to create this atmosphere in your group.
Be Specific When You Share
Be specific when you share your struggles. It does no one any good to hear that you struggle with parenting; everyone could be a better parent to one degree. Rather, share how you got impatient with your son when he caused you to be late. This reveals specific areas for growth and gives an opportunity for prayer. You don’t have to share inappropriate details if the struggle is better discussed in detail in a more intimate environment (like with just the men/women or just one other member), but the more specific you can be the better your group can pray for and support you.
Be Patient + Invite Privately
Don’t be surprised when not everyone is quick to follow suit. For some members, it may take some time before they feel they can share openly. That’s okay.
After a few meetings if they are still hesitant to open up, invite them to do so privately with you one on one. It could be they don’t feel comfortable doing so in a large group and are waiting for the opportunity to share how they are hurting. Be available by continuing to give encouragement and providing a safe space to share.
It May Feel Risky but It’s Worth It
You will feel exposed when revealing details of your personal life. You may feel it’s risky to share such difficulties, but I am telling you the sense of belonging that comes with transparency is worth the initial fear. In a safe, redemptive community this practice will bring intimate connection and trust that would not be achieved otherwise.
I challenge you as ministry leaders in the church to set the example of sharing vulnerably. Not only will this create unity in your group, but it will also equip you to better serve others as they struggle too.