Have you ever heard the phrase, “People will never care how much you know until they know how much you care”? This statement is so true. In the small group setting, facilitators must show people that they care by going out of their way to make each group member feel welcome and wanted. This will set the foundation for building trust.
During the initial phase, the group facilitator’s task is to develop an atmosphere of acceptance and love. In all of the ice-breaker exercises, the facilitator should share first so that the group members can feel more at ease. Group members should be encouraged to share within their own comfort level. Participants will need help in seeing each group session as a part of the whole group life. They should be encouraged to be patient in their expectations. Although the entire group life involves trust building, the first three to four sessions will focus on trust.
Building trust can prepare the soil for sharing and healing. Group participants will be building trust in the group and in the leaders. Since group members may not know what to expect, they will be checking the integrity of the group experience. They will usually initially discuss surface issues versus real needs. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to make sure that the group remains a safe place for everyone. We recommend that groups are closed after the third session. New people introduced after the third session will extend the amount of time that it will take to build trust.
Another issue to consider is confidentiality because most of the group members will have concerns regarding this. Nothing will harden that ground quicker than breaking confidentiality. That is why there must be clarity in setting the ground rules of group sessions. Every group member must know that what is shared in the group stays in the group. Once group members begin to see that information shared in the group will not be broadcasted to others, they will begin to take risks in sharing.
If confidentiality is broken, then it is the facilitator’s job to confront the individual and dismiss them from the group if necessary. There have been many facilitators who have asked the entire group to make the decision of whether to let the person who broke the trust stay in the group or not.
Build trust and watch the Word of God and the Spirit of God bring health, wholeness and freedom in Christ.
Next time, we will look at the next stage of the small group life. Mutuality will continue the process of building trust in the small group.
Excerpts from Understanding the Times and Knowing What To Do.