Could someone cry in your small group? I mean really breakdown and let the tears roll. Is your group that kind of safe place?
I met with a small group leader, who, like me, lost one of his parents within the last six months. He lost his Mom. I lost my Dad. We talked about our feelings of sadness, we scratched the surface of our struggles, and discussed how to best serve and minister to the parent who’s been left behind. It was a helpful time for both of us. Neither of us cried. But, had we gone much further, my sense is that we would have. And that would have been fine.
Crying and showing emotion with another person, or group of people, is one of those things that many of us want to be free to do—yet we often hold back. Why?
Often we hold back because we aren’t sure how others will respond to our pain and loss. We’re not sure if others are safe. We just don’t know, and the pain of our loss could be made worse by the insensitive comments and attitudes of others.
Is your small group a safe place to be open about pain and loss and grief? Are you safe people? If you lost a parent or a close friend could you be real about your struggle? If someone got fired from their job, would your group “go there” emotionally with the hurting person?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, ask yourself (and the others in your group) what it would take to become a place of genuine acceptance and real comfort? What sort of honest discussion needs to take place before you can get their? A small group doesn’t grow tight just because you meet together once per week. It takes intentional acts of authenticity. It takes the regular sharing of our stories—the good and the tough stuff.
One idea that many groups have found helpful is the personal timeline of positives and negatives. Here’s the idea: draw a timeline of your life that includes your three highest points and your three toughest things. We all have both. This activity helps the optimist engage with some of their challenging times, and it helps the pessimist recognize that they’ve enjoyed some good things too. This facilitates group members being honest about their joys and their pain. It also helps to hear the stories of others and know that they’ve dealt with “stuff” too.
This is not a personal baggage dump, rather honest engagement with our own fallenness and the daily battle we all face living in a fallen world.
Start the discussions now—before something tragic and deeply painful happens to someone in your group. Then you’ll be prepared, and your group will give someone the freedom to grieve.