We are now a couple weeks into this group season and I’ve loved hearing feedback from various leaders. A key value of group leadership I’ve seen making a positive impact centers around creating, fostering and cultivating a safe environment within your group. We want our groups to be a place for honest answers and for people to feel comfortable to share where they are in process.  When people feel comfortable enough to share the messy or undone areas of their life, friendship and spiritual growth will usually be a natural outcome.

Generally, safe and supportive groups include healthy relationships that are genuine and honest. Safe groups make space and show empathy and respect for the feelings and opinions of others — even when when two parties are not in agreement. The safest environments are marked by feelings of mutuality and equality.Some group members may still have reservations about sharing and that’s ok, remember authenticity in communication doesn’t mean total transparency.

On the other side of things, unsafe groups are often marked by defensive or forceful communication. When people spend a good deal of time or energy trying to convince others of their viewpoints, dominate others, work to impress each others, or show their superiority, they are no longer building unity or creating a safe environment.

If you’ve been seeing some of the dynamics of unsafe groups listed above in your group, consider asking the members for some input. Before you dive into your next discussion, simply ask some version of this question, “I want this group to be a place where we can be honest and open about our lives and spiritual journey. What sorts of things could help this group feel safer?” Keep it positive, be open to the ideas group members share, and use the conversation to help the group grow as a healthy community.

As group facilitators, we should be aware that building safety takes time. It’s a process and we can even expect ebbs and flows. As leaders we can fuel the growth process by modeling the safety we desire for our groups by being intentional in the way we contribute and interact within the group.

Thank you again for your continued leadership and investment. There is no question that the circles you create and the way you care  are helping people in your group — and our community as a whole — find and follow Jesus.