We all want people to grow, and it’s safe to say that we are all on the same page about groups being a primary driver in that growth. But what is it about groups that move people down the path of discipleship? What paves the way for healing, learning, and transformation?
The more complete answer? Lots of crazy miraculous things that God does that we will never comprehend or control…
The short answer that we play a part in? Safety.
Every person that walks in the doors of our churches has been taught by Instagram (and the rest of society as well…) that their filtered self is much more likable. Then all those people bring that same filtered self all the way into a group setting because they don’t know to expect anything different. But God wants our real selves – not our church selves, postured selves, cleaned up selves, or any other fake version.
Bottom line: If we want the people in our groups to grow, we need to proactively and consistently create safety.
WHAT IS SAFETY?
Safety is the groundwork for trust. Trust happens when a person comes to expect that a person or group will accept his/her real self. Trust is the cap for a relationship’s depth, and therefore in some ways, a person’s growth as a disciple.
HOW DO WE CREATE IT?
We can help our group leaders and hosts create safety in two very tangible ways.
(1) We put up boundaries in our group discussions so that people know exactly what will or won’t happen in response to them sharing what’s really going in their lives. At Mission, we went so far as to put these boundaries in a statement that our group leaders start every discussion with (more on that later).
(2) We enforce safety when someone breaks it. This one is hard. Actually, it’s really hard. But when someone breaks the rules of safety, leaders have to be ready and equipped to gently correct for the sake of the safety in the room. Otherwise we end up starting over.
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WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN I WANT IT TO?
Sometimes, it really does take a long time. Wounds and bad experiences make trust a long and slow process for many people. But many times, it can actually take longer than it should because of something in our control.
Sometimes we accidentally expect that people inherently know it’s safe to share what’s really going on, or what they are struggling with. But we need to flip the script. Safety needs to be re-explained, reinforced, and repeated over and over again. Say it when you announce a groups campaign. Say it when you first connect a person to the group. Have your group leaders say it in their first conversation with a new person. Have them say it at the beginning of a session. Even better, make them say it at the beginning of every discussion!
Sound like overkill? I thought so, too. At Mission, we have every group leader read the same exact “group statement” that outlines the ground rules of safety at the beginning of EVERY discussion. In fact, they hear it so often, group members start to memorize it. And now that it’s been going on for a while, I can honestly say that it’s one of the biggest drivers of trust and growth in our group environments. People come to expect safety almost immediately because there are rules against breaking it! That’s a huge deal! How comforting it would be for a person to walk in a room of strangers and hear that not a single person was going to try to fix them, fake it till they make it, or spill their story outside of the circle. It’s a game changer, and it helps us live out our good intentions.
SAFETY UNLOCKS THE REST OF THE JOURNEY
Confession, living on mission, learning, healing, sacrificing… those are all great things. But we don’t take steps like that until we believe that God loves us unconditionally – that he is safe. And that safety is what we all want to create in our groups – so we need a plan to get there as quickly as our people will allow. When we make safety one of our primary targets in our group environments, we see all the goodness of community and life change follow.
Check out Mission’s group statement (and steal it if you’d like) at missionventura.com/group-dynamics-the-rules-of-safety.