In our pursuit to lead groups that experience authentic friendships, I am sharing an activity today that is intended to fuel deeper connection, understanding, and compassion in our groups. If you have been around EastLake groups for a while, you’ll remember this activity from our “Work Sucks and Then You Die” series.

To participate, group members will need to go home with a 3×5 card. (If you cannot swing finding, making, or buying 3×5 cards, let me know so I can help.) Every group member would then tell their story or journey on that 3×5 card. Each of us will mark where God entered our lives, turning points that shaped our lives, places where life got difficult, points of celebration, and experiences with God or others that changed us. We can tell about our journeys through a simple life map, a list, or with pictures. (I am not looking for this to be a fancy art project.)

The 3×5 card isn’t intended to be a complete autobiography, courtroom testimony, or confession. The goal is to use a simple format — the 3×5 card — to authentically share key aspects of our stories within 5-10 minutes.

I am not requiring all groups to do this; I am simply encouraging you as a leader to consider this as a next right step. You know your group best, and you are best qualified to wrestle and decide if this is a good activity for your group right now.

It’s important to communicate that each person can define what those authentic key aspects of their story are. Sharing our stories authentically doesn’t require 100% transparency with everyone. In fact, we could say it would be foolish, and maybe even unhealthy, to transparently share everything with everyone. We need to be wise about when, where, why and with whom we are transparent.

In other words, this means there are parts of our stories and journeys that we may choose not to share with our groups, and that is okay.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Disclaimer: I do think we all need people who know the full story. This might be a spouse, a best friend, pastor, or a therapist / counselor. Shame, addictions, pain, trauma, and hurt often grow most toxic and powerful in secrecy. From what I have read, learned, observed and experienced, we are often only as healthy or free as our secrets. Even Jesus tells us to confess our sins to one another so we can healed. But still, none of this means we should share our deepest hurts, habits or hangups with every member of our group.]

Finally, it’s important for everyone to know that the goal is not to wrap things up with a firework show or an, “I lived happily ever after’ moment. On the other hand, it’s completely okay if your story lacks serious conflict, drama, pain or regret. The goal is to share where we have come from and who we are.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Since most groups have about 4 weeks left, you’ll need to plan how you want to complete this activity with your group. You may have a few people share their cards each week for the next few weeks or you may have everyone share their cards at the same group meeting. The bottom line is to plan and to communicate so people know what to expect.
  • I’d also highly encourage you as the group leader to go first. Going even further, I’d remind you to set the tone on how we want this to work. Be authentic, wisely and boldly transparent, and pave the way. Let your group see the real you and the journey you have walked. Timing wise, I’d suggest sharing your card and this activity the first day your group meets back up.
  • You can share these instructions with your group to help everyone understand the activity, the format, the point, the boundaries, and the ground rules. You can start things off by watching my (raw, unpolished and unrehearsed) example here.
  • Let any group member who isn’t comfortable opt out. People can always say no to sharing. But ideally, everyone will make their cards in freedom by remembering they are in control of what and how much they share.

Please know, I get that this whole thing can feel uncomfortable for some groups and some people, but I think the relational investment will be worth the discomfort for most groups. When enough trust is established, few things can fuel a sense of connection like learning about someone’s journey. Plus, sharing our stories with one another can help us understand more about how God works and awaken us to seeing God’s hand in our lives. This sort of shared activity can also leave us grateful for the good we have experienced, yearning for more of God in a beautiful way, or with a deeper sense of clarity to hurts, habits or hangups. The bottom line is our stories are important, our stories matter, God walks with us through our stories, and he often uses our unique stories to connect us.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]