This is the fourth of a multi-part entry on how we can encourage the formation of open and honest community in our small group. This material is excerpted from a small group curriculum leader’s manual (Small Group Life, from Lifeway Christian Resources). For the benefit of context, if you have not read the previous sections of this topic, we encourage you to do so before reading what follows. They can be easily located by clicking on the “GroupLife Dynamics” category link to the right of this blog entry.
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5. Interrupt It.
There will be times when God does something fantastic in the group meeting. A sin is confessed for the first time, a staggering marriage situation is unveiled, an incapacitating past experience is voiced, and so forth. In these instances you will sense that continuing to work through the study is simply diminishing what God is trying to accomplish. Stop everything and allow the group to lay hands on and pray for the individual. Share in the moment of grief. Ask group members to speak words of wisdom and tell the individual what God has to say to him or her through His Words found in the Bible. The Holy Spirit may lead you toward much more appropriate modes of ministry in these situations. He is very, very creative in His ministry to and through us. But allow yourself to make the person more important than the study. It is in these times that an environment of redemptive community is most evident and most powerful.
6. Listen for It.
The small-group leader as an active listener lets individuals know they are being heard and are valued. When someone is speaking, keep eye contact with him or her, nod in agreement when possible, and don't exhibit body language that would lead him or her to believe you are shutting him or her out (arms crossed, legs crossed, glancing about the room as they are speaking, etc.)
7. Draw it Out.
Redemptive community can only happen when someone acknowledges the need to allow God to redeem something that has occurred in that individual's life. You will sometimes need to draw that acknowledgement out of a group member. During the conversation you will sometimes need to read between the lines. For instance, if your topic for discussion was the story of David and Goliath and the question was, "Who was the giant in your life when you were a child, and when did you finally stand up to that giant?" you will most likely get some very important responses. If someone in the group is unable to speak but is moved to tears, you will want to speak to him between meetings and see what the situation was that brings this depth of pain. It may be that, for the first time, a debilitating experience is unveiled and you can then work with that individual to help him allow God to redeem this devastating circumstance or relationship.
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Next week we will review the final two points in this essay on developing redemptive community.