The Role of Group Facilitators

The role of group facilitators is crucial to the success of groups aimed at helping people in this dysfunctional society. The group facilitator and co-facilitator lead the group members, using the appropriate curriculum, through various group dynamics that will change their view of themselves and their world.

There are two things a small group leader should remember. First, God does not expect the leader to have all the answers or work miracles in the lives of group members. That is God's work. Instead, the leader should simply guide the group toward the healing and solutions which the Holy Spirit provides-God will do the rest. Second, leaders should remember that Christian small groups are quite different from secular ones. Secular groups attempt to bring about behavior modification through peer pressure and group dynamics. Although there is a place for positive peer pressure and group dynamics in the Christian small group, there must be a change in the heart. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Behavior modification is only a temporary, superficial solution. God offers deeper, long-lasting change through His body-in this case, the small group. To bring that about, the leader must discern the heart of a person's problem and point the sufferer to Christ. In a sense the group leader needs only to get the ball rolling.

Healing through the group process will take place naturally. "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20). Group leaders should be aware of some dos and don'ts that are important for creating an environment of healing and growth.

Dos. Open each group session with prayer remembering to keep Christ as the center throughout the meeting. The main role of the group leader and co-leader is to keep the process going. Although active listening is important, the group leaders should be willing to share their own feelings. This creates warmth and trust which helps group members to feel safe in sharing their feelings.

Care-fronting should always be done with respect and sensitivity. Arrange the chairs so members can easily see each other. Having eye contact will help the interaction. Discussion can be enhanced by open-ended questions. Some examples would be: "Could it be that . . . " "It sounds like . . . " "I hear you saying . . . "

The group leaders should have a sense of humor. It is easy to get caught up in the seriousness of one another's needs and forget the value of laughter. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). Humor can enhance the group experience by breaking tension and building trust. Having sensitivity to the timing of humor is important.

Group leaders should have respect for time limitations. The announced time period should be followed. Group members should be respected by the leader's starting and concluding the group session on time. Adherence to the agreed time will build respect for the facilitators. It also helps group members to practice discipline as they commit to the time frame of the group.

Group facilitators should always work within their limitations. When the facilitators see an apparent need for professional counseling for a group member, this does not mean that the group leaders have failed nor does it imply that God's power is insufficient. Instead it should be seen as positive because the individual's need has surfaced. In this case the group leaders should ask for pastoral help in determining the most appropriate Christian service available. Each group member's comfort level should always be respected.

Don'ts. Although therapy occurs in Christian small groups led by non-credentialed group facilitators, group therapy, in the professional sense, should not be attempted. Serving as channels of Christ's love to those who are hurting and desire wholeness in Christ is the purpose. Facilitators should not feel it necessary to solve people's problems; instead, they should create an environment in which the Holy Spirit can do His work.

Avoid probing. Probing may open deep emotional wounds with which the facilitators are not prepared to deal. Group members should be encouraged to share their feelings with the understanding that they should not go beyond their comfort level. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Group facilitators should not interpret group members; instead, they should reflect what they say. Counselors who practice group therapy often interpret group members; however, group dynamics is supportive interaction between group members.

Facilitators should not give advice. If the advice given by the helper does not work, the group member may hold the person responsible. Advice may hinder the growth process since the group members may become dependent on the group leaders for insight; whereas, active listening assists the individual with a better understanding of self. If a group member seeks advice from a facilitator, the answer should be general and not violate biblical principles. Becoming a caretaker or accumulating and owning other people's problems is not healthy for the leader or group member. If a group member discloses information that causes the group leader or members to feel uncomfortable, it may be appropriate for the facilitator to request a private meeting at a later time. Facilitators should not feel they must have all the answers or dominate the group discussion.

Discourage gossip. Since it is a sin, gossip should not be a part of any group activity. In the early church, gossip was condemned and associated with other sins (Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20). Gossip will destroy a small group.

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
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