How To Move Past Small Talk
We all yearn for authenticity in our connect groups. While we have that person in our group that is an open book about every detail in their life, not everyone is quick to share and trust the rest of their small group with their deepest, darkest secrets. Trust is earned over time by building relationships with others. As you begin to build those relationships, here are some tips that will help facilitate healthy sharing in your groups.
For authentic sharing to work, a safe environment must be created. It needs to be made clear from the beginning that everything shared in your connect group stays in the group. Nothing can break a 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 someone is sharing something deeply personal like confessing a sin, they are trusting you not to attack or injure them. 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.”
In my experience, mixed-gender groups 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.
Once you’ve made your group a safe place to authentically share, being intentional about sharing things that will help your group grow healthy is important. In my groups these four types of authentic sharing have been very beneficial to our growth: confessing sins, sharing joys, sharing sorrows and sharing goals.
Confessing your sins should be a regular thing, as many problems we face in life are a symptom of unconfessed sin. Sin is like a sickness, and sometimes you may be sick and not even know it. James 5:16 (NASB) tells us to “therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”
There was a time in my life when I was in a dark place. I had lost my job along with some friendships, and I was a difficult person to be around. After falling into depression and gaining forty pounds, I finally confessed to some of the men in my group that I was living a very emotionally and physically unhealthy lifestyle. Once I shared that with the group, they were able to pray for me, and it eventually led to me being healed mentally and physically. Not only did it help me relationally, but I even began eating healthy, working out and losing the weight. Thank God I shared those things with my group.
In the same way we should share our sorrows, so that our group can bear our burdens. Galatians 6:2 says to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Often tragedy strikes on its own, but we don’t have to go through it alone. In fact, you may discover others have some of the same feelings, questions and insecurities as you during a trial. The deepest level of fellowship and bonding occur when you suffer together with others.
As we march through battles together, don’t forget to share your joys. Celebrate what God has helped you overcome. If he has given you victory over a trial or given you anything you’ve been praying for, you should rejoice with others. 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) says “brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” A good indicator of full restoration is when you rejoice.
Finally, share your big dreams, goals, and hopes for the future. Your connect group can encourage you, provide feedback, and even lend a hand to help make it happen. If you have a God-sized dream, it’s probably too big for you to fulfill on your own. You’ll need help because you don’t possess every gift or skill required to complete such a task. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says “you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
The four types of authentic sharing I’ve shared are great for bonding and encouragement, but they need to be wrapped tight in prayer. As we share, we should enlist our group to faithfully pray over what we have shared, and likewise pray for others in our group. Like Romans 12:12 (NIV) says “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I pray for the kind of authenticity in your group that leads to healing, restoration, celebration and the realization of dreams.