Redemptive Community - Part 5

This post will conclude our series Redemptive Community dealing with how small group leaders can foster a safe environment where people are able to grow closer in community...letting their guard down while letting group members (and God) be a blessing in their lives.  We hope that you have found these articles helpful.  They are from Small Group Life, from Lifeway Christian Resources.

- - - - - - - - - - -

8. Do It Between Meetings.

Remember this principle: "The amount and depth of conversation that takes place during meetings is directly related to the amount and depth of conversation that happens between meetings. " When groups and group members communicate with one another between meetings, the life-transforming conversation that will take place during meetings is greatly enhanced.

9. Don't Rush It.

Progressive Intimacy is a natural part of every group member's experience. Progressive intimacy simply means that group members go through somewhat consistent stages of Connection. Below you'll see these steps as I perceive them, based on my experiences as a small-group leader:

Invitation (honored to be part of the group.)

Expectation (Prior to first meeting emotions arise concerning possibilities for group experience and group relationships.)

Intimidation (First meeting--new people, new surroundings, need to be loved and accepted overwhelmed by what seems to be the depth of spiritual lifestyles of others.)

Inhibition (inhibited because people still don't know if this is a safe haven or a dangerous relational jungle.)

Exploration (exploring their place in the group.)

Evaluation (This mental exercise asks questions vital to the individual. Who am I in this group? Do I really fit in? Are these people really accepting me? Do I really accept them?)

Actualization (I accept my role in this group, the people in this group, and the leader of the group. This group and I have a shared goal, like passion, and sincerity of heart to see God act.)

Reconciliation (I know and accept my place in this community of believers I trust them to know my needs and respond and to keep conversations confidential. We are Christian community with like goals and callings. I am reconciled to living the principles espoused in the group covenant.)

Exhibition (Since I have learned this is a safe environment and I have concluded that I am accepted here and am a person of worth to these people, and because deep in my heart I realize I am part of this community, I can exhibit the real me.)

Elation (There is no place I'd rather be. Being me is fun, exciting, and relaxing. I am elated to spend time in this environment.)

The length an individual is in each of these stages will differ from person to person. Also, some people will skip various stages and move directly to the next.  Some will get stuck in a stage and never choose to move forward unless prompted to do so by a life experience, a conversation with a group member, or a planned activity like a retreat or mission trip. And others will go forward, then some experience will force them back to prior stages (someone breaks a confidence, attacks them publicly or behind her back, and etc.)