Learning to Lead a Small Group - Lesson 6

Promoting Honest Sharing

In this lesson, you will learn about the importance of promoting honest sharing in small groups and how it contributes to building trust and facilitating spiritual growth. You will also explore various techniques to encourage honest sharing, such as creating a safe environment, asking open-ended questions, and practicing active listening. Additionally, you will gain insights on addressing challenges related to honest sharing, including overcoming personal barriers, navigating difficult conversations, and managing group dynamics.

Ron Pyle
Learning to Lead a Small Group
Lesson 6
Watching Now
Promoting Honest Sharing

I. Importance of Honest Sharing in Small Groups

A. Building Trust

B. Facilitating Spiritual Growth

II. Techniques for Encouraging Honest Sharing

A. Creating a Safe Environment

1. Confidentiality

2. Non-judgmental Attitude

B. Asking Open-ended Questions

1. Types of Open-ended Questions

2. Encouraging Reflection and Self-awareness

C. Active Listening

1. Showing Empathy and Understanding

2. Providing Support and Encouragement

III. Addressing Challenges in Honest Sharing

A. Overcoming Personal Barriers

B. Navigating Difficult Conversations

C. Managing Group Dynamics

  • What are small groups? Why do we have them? What does a healthy small group look like? What does the Bible have to say about the importance of small groups and what participation should look like?

  • In this lesson, you will learn the importance of small group theology, and it starts with an understanding of God's role in community. Dr. Ron Pyle explains that all of history is essentially a history of God's communal activity with humankind, starting with creation. God is the author and perfector of community, and God establishes its boundaries, identity, and future establishment of a new Jerusalem where God's people will dwell in community with one another and with God.
  • In this lesson, you learn effective small group leadership, fostering spiritual growth and supportive relationships, handling challenges, and developing future leaders.
  • What are small groups? Why do we have them? What does a healthy small group look like? People support what they are part of creating. Plan your first meeting carefully. Different distances invite different types of communication. The behavior you want to sustain, make sure you enact the first time.

  • By studying this lesson, you learn how to effectively create and implement a small group contract to establish clear expectations, improve group dynamics, and foster a supportive and productive environment.
  • Gain insight into effectively leading small groups through the five stages of group life, while learning to adapt your leadership style and navigate changing group dynamics.
  • By promoting honest sharing in small groups, you foster trust, facilitate spiritual growth, and learn effective techniques to create a safe environment, ask open-ended questions, and practice active listening.
  • By leading effective small group discussions, you foster spiritual growth, encourage participation, and create a safe environment for open sharing and deeper connections.
  • You gain insight into power dynamics in relationships, specifically within small groups, and learn to foster healthy power dynamics, ensuring a balanced, inclusive, and constructive group environment.
  • By understanding conflict management in small group leadership, you develop the skills to foster a healthy group dynamic, resolve conflicts, and maintain a positive, collaborative environment.

What relationships are important to you? How do you develop trust? How can you share in a meaningful way with others? When you experience conflict in relationship, how can you manage it in a way that will grow your relationship? What does the Bible say about the importance and purpose of a small group?

Dr. Pyle leads you through the process from planning a small group, creating a contract, the beginning meetings, leading discussions, stages of group life and managing conflict. You will benefit from his training and experience as he gives you insights into the skills you will need and the commitments you can make to lead a group well. He will also give you insight into interpersonal communication dynamics in a group situation that will help you effectively guide and motivate the people in your group to share at a deep level.

Anytime there are people involved there are no guarantees, but there are few activities more rewarding than cultivating authentic relationships in a community of faith. This is class gives you the information and motivation you will need to get a good start and finish well. Don't miss this opportunity!

Dr. Ron Pyle
Learning to Lead a Small Group
Promoting Honest Sharing
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] William Shoes is a social psychologist. Basically, what he was trying to do is articulate the basic interpersonal relational needs that everybody has. Have you ever heard of Abraham Maslow? Maslow was a psychologist who developed this hierarchy of needs. Well, what Maslow tried to do four needs. Generally, William Chutes attempted to do for interpersonal needs in particular. And his conclusion was, there are three foundational interpersonal needs that everybody brings in. Now, here's where the plot thickens. While everybody shares these three needs, not everybody goes about meeting them in the same way. So the first need is the need for inclusion. Everybody's got it. I need to feel like I'm accepted by the group. I need to feel like I belong. But. Sometimes in group life, people don't feel like they're accepted or involved. If there's a deficiency of inclusion, people will tend to go one of two ways. They'll tend to withdraw and not participate much because they don't feel like they're wanted. Shoots called that person the under social. This is the individual who has needs for inclusion. But because of fear of not having that need met, they tend to isolate themselves. There are people in your small groups who will need to be drawn out and in. Oddly, though, the other response that's very common on the part of people who don't feel accepted by a group is to get the group's attention somehow. You call these people over social. They will demand attention, make sure that they're included somehow, even in less than appropriate ways, when people feel like they are accepted and included. There's a healthy balance. I know that I am included and accepted by the group so I don't have to do extraordinary things to prove it and I don't withdraw.

[00:02:27] It's a balance, a healthy balance of being appropriately connected to people. And that individual is called the social. The first of the three foundational interpersonal needs is inclusion. The second is control. Control. As Schuetz was using, it was the need to feel like you're influential and important. Like you matter. Trouble is, some people don't feel like they have respect or influence in a group. They feel relatively powerless and like what they do doesn't matter much. When that happens, you tend to get two different responses. You get people who will simply do what they're told. Schuetz calls those people Abda crats. You see the root here. Looks like the word abdicate means to give away or to give over to surrender. Some people are Abdou crats. They'll do what they're told, but what they won't do is insert themselves in an influence attempt at all. Some of us know what this is like because some of us were raised in families full of Abdou crats. This made making a choice like, Where should we have dinner? A 45 minute ordeal because no one wants to insert themselves or exert any kind of influence. So what you do is sit around and go, I don't know, I don't care whatever you want. No. Well, I don't know. It doesn't matter to me. Whatever you want. Now, here, this clearly it is possible to simply be indifferent about something like Where should we have dinner? That isn't being an adequate. And adequate is a person who does have an opinion but won't insert it because they feel like they don't have respect or influence. One of the surest ways that you're dealing with an advocate is that they won't make decisions or exert any kind of influence. They'll let someone else do that and then complain about the outcome.

[00:04:33] So you go, I don't know. I don't know whatever you want, but no, you will go wherever. And then somebody finally says, okay, I'm going to Pizza Hut. I hope you come. And then they come. And then they go, Oh, this food's awful. I knew we shouldn't have come here. Now, in our family, we instituted a rule called the No Grape Rule. And the no grape rule went like this. If you tell me you don't care, I will believe you. Because I'm assuming you're being honest with me. I will believe you. And you surrender. All right? To complain about the outcome. Some people are advocates. Sometimes, oddly enough, people who feel like they don't have much respect or influence. Take the other path, and that is to dominate. What they're doing is proving something to themselves. Yes, I am an influential person and I'll prove it to you by how I dominate my group. You seen autocrats there, People who, even if they aren't the designated leader in a group, will usurp power from the designated leader to exert force of their own. When people believe that they are respected and influential, they are able to exert influence when it's appropriate to take leadership, when that's appropriate for them. But they don't have to be in charge of everything. They don't have to control it. When they're not the leader, they can be a great follower, a great group member. When they are a leader, they can exert appropriate leadership. You call that position the Democrat? Like I said, it's it's not about politics. So inclusion control. Here's your third foundational need. They need affection, and that is about relational intimacy. Now, let me say a word about intimacy. Intimacy is about a relational connection that evidences depth and warmth and richness and joy.

[00:06:50] You need to know that your group members are looking for intimacy. They need to know that their loved. That someone cares about them at a deep, meaningful level. The trouble is, some people are not sure about that intimacy and whether others want to be close to them or connected with them. And so as a result, some people will avoid intimacy with others as a protection device because they don't want to get hurt. These people are called the under personal. It's hard for these people to say things like, I care about you or I love you. Touch is hard for these people generally. They tend to isolate themselves emotionally as well. Sometimes when people aren't sure if others want to be close to them, they feel like they have to prove that they are worthy of affection by being intimate with everybody. This is the person and shoots called this individual the over personal. This is the person who feels like they have to be everybody's best friend. And they have to be the primary source of relational intimacy in their group. So they'll tend to demand things like deeper disclosure. If a group member confides in someone else instead of them, they almost take personal offense because I should be the one with whom you have the intimacy. These people will sometimes tend to overshare. Hungry for intimacy, sometimes seek it in less than optimal or healthy ways. When people believe that others do want to be close to them. That is to say I'm worthy of affection, of intimacy. And they recognized, you know what? I don't have to be everybody's best friend to be acceptable. And these are people who recognize that in the normal range of human relations, some of your relationships are closer than other ones.

[00:09:10] And that's not a deficiency of the ones that aren't close. It's a recognition of the fluidity of human relationships. When I'm close with people, I can enjoy that I can engage intimately with others. And if I don't engage intimacy intimately with everyone else, I'm not unlovable because of it. If you're aware of people's needs, you can prayerfully consider how to bring out the best in them. Look at everybody coming to your group has these needs. They're going to be addressed somehow. We've tended to think of self-disclosure like this. It's sharing something about yourself that others would not otherwise know about you. If I say to you, Hi, how you doing today? Did you know I'm wearing blue today? This is not disclosure. She can figure that out all by herself. One of the things we've learned is that disclosure is not simply an individual choice. It's interactive. Dependent on the perceived openness of the other people involved in the decision to disclose is not simply a personal decision. It's interactive depending on the attitudes, perceived attitudes of the people involved. Look, I'll give you an example. Lots of parents I get to do parent child communication seminars sometimes. What parents always want to know is how do I get my kid to talk with me? I want relational connection and I want to develop relationship with my kids. How do I get them to talk to me? The trouble is, when you look at the ways they actually communicate. You hear them say things like this, Sweetheart, you can tell me anything that's going on with you. I want honesty in our relationship. And so the child goes, Really? Yeah. I'm here for you. Then the kid goes, Well, okay. You know, last week when I told you I was going to Barbara's.

[00:11:20] I didn't. I went to a party and some people were drinking there, and I got pretty drunk. The next thing is the principle that says the most important relational move you ever make is the next one. Next thing will determine this situation I've just given you. Next thing will determine the nature of the self-disclosure, because if the next move the parent makes is you what? No child of mine is going to okay, and you're grounded for three months and you may not ever see and you read him the riot act. Well, what you just told the kid is, yes, I'm open to disclosure from you as long as it's what I want to hear. The decision about whether to disclose or not is interactive. It gets invited by the attitudes and environment in which you exist. So you having a Bible study about forgiveness in Christ and one of the people in your group has actually got the guts to say no. I mean, that's I know it says it in the Bible. It doesn't feel to me like I'm forgiven. Next thing is extremely critical right now, because if what they get is, well, what's wrong with your faith, you ought to believe that. What's wrong? Can't you. Can't you embrace that forgiveness? Then you've just told them. You can tell me the truth, but not that truth. Get it. If in your groups you build an environment of trust, safety, welcome, and you make careful next moves, you can invite the kind of disclosure you're after. Sometimes we disclose in order to manage our impressions. Sometimes it's because we want pity. It is true that self-disclosure can be manipulative, but sometimes we do it to problem solve. Sometimes we do it to gain a perspective bigger than ours might produce an outcome or decision that is better than the one I would have come up with.

[00:13:42] Disclosure might be a way of building some bridges between people to help mend relationship. People disclose at about the level that you disclose with them. One of the reasons we disclose is to achieve what we hope is a stable perception and sense of reality. So you're at your small group and somebody made a comment that you thought was off the wall tonight, but you don't know if it was just you. When you go home and you talk to your spouse about that and say, was it just me or was that really just kind of weird? You're looking for a stable sense of reality when you don't disclose the number one reason, according to the com literature that people don't disclose is because they're afraid of negative judgment. I'm afraid if I tell you the truth about what I think, you're going to judge me for it. It's too risky. And you know what? When I disclose something about myself, I lose control of it. Because in our small group, we've said there's confidentiality here, but I don't control that with you. If I tell you the truth, especially a truth, it's not that flattering about me. I don't know if you're going to cherish that and hold confidence or not. Just like one of the reasons we do disclose is to manage impressions. One of the reasons we don't disclose is to manage impressions do. Sometimes the issues we're dealing with are so complex, this setting isn't the appropriate place to do that disclosure. When that happens, you need to know that's legitimate. When that happens, please don't think that the people are being resistant or not wanting some kind of intimacy. There might be a really good reason they're not disclosing. Maybe it's not the right time.

[00:15:37] Maybe it's not the right relationship. Disclosure tends to increase with relational intimacy. The more intimately connected you get. Generally, the more people tend to disclose. Disclosure tends to increase when it's rewarded. When people get rewarded for disclosing, they tend to do more of it. When they get punished for disclosing, they tend to do less of it. Disclosure tends to be reciprocal. We talked about that just a moment ago. People tend to disclose with others at about the level that they feel like you're disclosing with them. Healthy relationships tend to be developed through breadth and depth of disclosure. But if you rush either you tend to defeat the very thing you want to seek. That's why disclosure has to be appropriately timed for the relationship and the level of development of your group. One of the problems very, very common in groups is badly done sharing questions. A sharing question is a one or two sentence question that invites members to disclose to say something about themselves. These sharing questions come in a variety of types. Past Tense Sharing Questions. Invite. Invite you to share personal history. They sound like this. Tell us about one of the houses that you lived in when you were growing up. Present tense sharing questions are shockingly about the present. They sound like this. What's a typical Saturday look like for you? Future Tense Sharing questions invite shared hopes, expectations, and fears. Something about the future. They sound like this. If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you dare to try? Good questions are appropriate to the type and life stage of your group. If your group is newly formed and you don't have depth yet, you need to ask a past tense or present tense or future tense question in a particular way that's appropriate to the life stage of your group.

[00:17:45] When your group's more developed, the nature of those questions will change. Good sharing questions can be addressed in 3 minutes at most. 3 minutes is probably on the long end. So probably the question described the roughest time in your life is not a good sharing question. Good sharing questions. Ask for personal sharing of self, not your opinion about issues. There may be a time for your opinion about issues when you're doing something else in group, but when your objective is to build relationships? Probably. What's your stand on? Abortion isn't your best sharing question. Good sharing questions do not require people to confess their sins or share negative information about themselves. If they want to go there, that's a decision they make. Good sharing questions can be answered by every member of the group. Here's a badly done sharing question. Describe the most embarrassing thing that happened at your senior prom. I was in a small group one time and ah, we had a leader who was well-intentioned, had a very good heart, Opened The first question of the discussion on this one particular night went like this. Tell us something about how you decided to choose your college major. And then people start going around the group and one person gives an answer and an answer and an answer. And then it came to a man who didn't go to college. In your margin, Are these printed on one side or two sides to find a margin somewhere? You can write down what I'm about to say because I am not naive or arrogant enough to believe that everything I say is worthy of your writing down. What I'm about to tell you is. Some communication is convergent, some communication is divergent. And here's the difference.

[00:20:00] Some communication is convergent. It's the kind of communication that invites people to identify and connect. Some communication is divergent. It drives wedges between people. What just happened with the example I gave you? How did you choose your college major? When somebody there doesn't have a contribution to that question, you've just done divergent communication To say there is a wedge between you and I, and what you've just done is to define that member as outside the scope of the group. When one of you makes a contribution and I go, Wow, what great insight, I'm giving you a definition of yourself that says you are an insightful person, you're smart, you're intelligent, you're worth our hearing. This is this goes on, as I said, every time you communicate, you're sitting at your dinner table, for goodness sakes. And the topic is, how was your day? And somebody at the table starts to talk. What you do next in the communication will give this person an identity that says you're valuable, you're important, you're worth our hearing or the opposite every time. So every question you ask in a group is also offering definitions. The question that was just that I've just demonstrated for you offered the person who didn't go to college a definition of themselves as being an outsider. Good. Sharing questions are worth the group's time to listen to the answer. This is a bad sharing question. If you were a pizza topping, which would you be? It takes you about half a second to respond to that question. Good sharing questions. Do not ask for superlatives. The best, the most, the worst. So your question shouldn't be who has influenced your life most? Because when I ask that question, what do you do immediately? You got all kinds of people that you're trying to rank order to go, okay, who's it influence my life most? That isn't the point of the question.

[00:22:26] The problem with superlatives is it's almost it's rarely the question that you really want to ask. You get what you're after by asking the question. Tell me about someone who's influenced your life. Ask one question at a time with one hope and one fear you have about the future can be modified to say, What's one hope you have about the future. You can ask the fear question as a separate one. Good sharing questions Ask one question at a time.