The last two of what I call the parameters to healthy sharing are commitment and patience. You need a certain level of commitment from the people in your group to be there whenever you meet. I call it the ministry of showing up. Clearly communicating the expectation of consistent attendance and participation is important. We don’t want to guilt people into showing up but we want everyone to have some stake in the group. In past groups we’ve had core members sign a group covenant which included a commitment to consistently show up . We’ve also had accountability partners in our group to make sure someone was responsible for at least one other person to check up on them. I think the accountability route has worked best, especially for keeping newcomers because it allows them to feel a sense of belonging. Whatever your style, clearly communicating and getting group commitment is valuable to allow for long-term health. One of my current small groups formed at a church-wide series on transformation. At the end of the series, our group, originally made up of random strangers, decided to continue meeting. In one of our earlier meetings we agreed to try it out for a few months then re-commit, and lo and behold we passed the one year mark and will renew our commitments as we enter a new season for our group. Though you may have a core group of committed members, authentic sharing won’t happen for everyone right away. It takes patience. Patience is about allowing the time required to water and cultivate the seeds of sharing. This one is especially difficult for me, as the demands of the corporate world I am a part of, tend to be less forgiving when it comes to showing measurable results. In our small group journey, everyone grows at their own pace and has a unique journey with God. It’s arrogant to think that we should know the timing of someone’s growth and when they ought to share in order for growth to happen. Pushing too hard too soon can cause some people to retreat. We are all in different places in our spiritual journey. So while we challenge everyone to share, we give each individual space to process things and come around. One of my favorite small group stories on giving people time and space is about the time I left, and growth happened. I remember a guy just out of college with a new job started showing up to small group. He only showed up for our small group social gatherings, but did not attend our Sunday worship services. After a while he began coming out to church on Sunday to hang out with his new small group friends. Once he began showing up consistently to our regular small group gatherings, I began to question if he was getting anything out of the group. We would break of into our smaller men’s circle to confess our sins, share our concerns and pray for each other. When it was his turn to share, he’d say “I’m going to pass.” I’d pressure him to come out of his comfort zone and it seemed to me nothing was a happening. Some time had passed and I moved to Dallas, TX, leaving the group behind. A few years later I returned to the group to find this same guy who was too shy to share, now being transparent and leading that very small group I had helped to start. And I didn’t even get to witness his growth process. It’s possible if I had been there to keep pushing him against his will, he may have retreated, not eventually opening up, no eventually getting baptized, and not eventually leading the small group. Maybe your small group is a safe place to share, people are already committed to showing up and enough time has passed to where everyone is comfortable enough to authentically share. My next post will cover the four types of authentic sharing that will promote healthy spiritual growth and bonding in your group. These include confessing your sins, sharing your joys, sharing your sorrows and sharing your dreams.