I’ve heard it said that the Christian 4-letter F-word is “Fine.” As in, “how are you today?” “Oh, I’m fine.” I can’t remember the last time I had a meaningful conversation with my spouse, my boss’s criticism is causing me to question my self-worth, and I don’t understand how a good God could let my cousin’s kids lose their dad to cancer, but “I’m fine.”
If everyone in your small group is “fine,” they aren’t going to experience much life change.
When someone brings their hurt and pain to the group, rather than thinking “Oh no, what do I do about this?” your inward response should be, “At last! Now we’re getting somewhere!”
All of us have experienced the hurts and wounds that come throughout life and small groups should be a safe place for God to bring them to the surface and deal with them.
So don’t freak out.
Depending on how you’re wired, your tendency may be to shut down those expressing their hurt in fear that they’ll bleed all over the furniture (figuratively speaking), make the other members uncomfortable, and derail the direction you planned to take the group. Instead, you swiftly and smoothly tell them you’ll pray with them after group and then refer them up the ladder to a church staff member who can guide them to the “professional” help they need.
Yes, there’s a time and place for that, but don’t short-circuit the process of what God wants to do in and through your group. A healthy group should be a place where members can process and deal with hurts and wounds from both the past and the present.
So what can your group do?
- Be present. Most often, people who reveal their hurts simply want others to be there for them. Hear them out and demonstrate a commitment to walk with them through the pain.
- Validate their pain. Acknowledge the legitimacy of their emotions. Let them know you’ve been there too – their reaction is totally understandable.
- Clarify the situation. Depending on what hurt or pain they’ve experienced, they may have a skewed perspective of the situation. Help them to think it through and gain clarity.
- Supply strength. They may need the group to provide emotional support and strength that they are lacking on their own. How can you as a group come around them and provide the resources they need to deal with or walk through the situation?
- Make a plan. Will time heal wounds and you simply need to walk with them through the process? Or do they need to take specific steps to deal with the situation? Where steps are called for, help them to think them through clearly and realistically.
- Maintain group identity. Be aware of how others in the group are responding to the situation. While other group members can grow through providing support to the hurt person, don’t allow the group to become solely about that person’s issues. Maintain boundaries that permit the rest of the group to continue to grow and process their own issues.
It’s been said that you can’t know you are truly loved until you are truly known. Through being honest about the hurt they are dealing with, your small group member is letting you know them at a deeper level.
As the other members experience this and come alongside the hurt member in their pain, they know that they can be real and honest about the hurts they experience and the group will be there for them as well.
Say hello to true community.
Previously posted at BibleStudyInsider.com.