Does your small group share authentically? I’ve talked to several small group members and leaders that have expressed how hard it is to have authentic sharing in their groups. One leader resigned to believing their “group just needs more time to get comfortable with each other.” This came from a leader whose group has been meeting for over a year now. Real sharing doesn’t just happen when you gather around in a circle, ask the right questions and wait. It needs to be modeled. When authentic sharing is modeled, it becomes infectious.
I believe one of the best models for authentic sharing in small groups is found at Celebrate Recovery (CR). Chances are you’ve heard of this Christ-centered recovery ministry started by Pastor John Baker of Saddleback Church. Walk into a CR open share group and you’ll find people bravely sharing some of their deepest and darkest hurts, habits and hang-ups. Our individual brokenness may look different or exist to varying degrees, but we all have them. And while we all have them, many of us are just not comfortable sharing our stuff because it’s never been modeled, or we don’t feel safe doing it. CR provides a safe environment for sharing within small groups by implementing guidelines like focusing on your own thoughts and feelings, prohibiting crosstalk, not giving advice and not trying to fix others.
Maybe you have never experienced the kind of authenticity where everyone is sharing their habits, hurts and hang-ups. If so, you ought to visit a CR open share to get an idea of what authentic sharing looks like. Even if you can’t find others you relate with in your open share group, it will teach you how to share and deal with your particular brokenness and issues in a healthy way within your own small group. There may be someone in your small group feeling isolated and alone in their struggles and not able to share them. Right next to them in group might be someone with similar insecurities, dysfunctional family life and troubled past. Yet here they are, in group sharing superficial prayer requests that really won’t lead to much growth or change rather than sharing the pain that’s really on their heart. I’m not saying that’s your group, but is it?