This week is devoted to the topic of authentic sharing and deep bonding in small groups. I truly believe real spiritual growth and bonding happen when you invest time and energy in four types of authentic sharing in small group. I’m saving the four types of sharing for later this week and dividing my post into several parts to keep each blog post relatively short. Today is focused on the parameters of authentic sharing.
Authentic sharing begins with you, living an authentic life as a believer. When this is modeled in your group, open and honest sharing can happen organically, though sometimes a slight nudge may be helpful for such conversations to take place. In either case, setting the right parameters will help promote healthy sharing and avoid any pitfalls down the line whether you intentionally ask people to openly share, or it happens organically.
The first parameter needed is a safe environment for sharing. It needs to be made clear from the beginning that everything shared in the group stays in the group. Nothing can break community down quicker than gossip—even when you have the best intentions. Proverbs 16:28 (NIV) says “a perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
People should also feel safe from being attacked. When sharing my cares, sins and deep feelings, I am trusting you not to attack or injure me. There is a time for growth, but when people are being vulnerable, that’s not the time to give unsolicited advice or to criticize. Like Matthew 18:15 (NIV) says “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
Lastly, if you have a mixed gender group, you might need to subgroup by gender in order to facilitate safe and open sharing. There are topics that men are comfortable only sharing with other men and women with women. I’ve had debates about this topic within small groups before, but it is clear that for safe and healthy sharing, certain things ought to be shared and discussed within the boundaries of the same gender group.
Tomorrow, I want to share two more parameters for healthy, authentic sharing. Then I will discuss the four types authentic sharing I believe are crucial for personal growth within small groups.