Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Power of Vulnerability

It’s important for us to communicate the fact that storms in our lives is a reality of a fallen world and that they don’t always mean that we are being pruned or disciplined by God. With that said, we as leaders have a perfect opportunity to be vulnerable and share some of our own storms with our group members (Whether self-inflicted or outside-inflicted). Here are a few reasons why vulnerability can be a great tool to use in leading a small group:

Vulnerability makes you a real person.
Although we as group leaders do our best to welcome others and make them feel at ease, it’s still possible that some small group members can feel intimidated by the group leader’s position and/or spiritual knowledge. Being vulnerable and sharing a story from your personal spiritual journey can help your group members relate to you and realize that you had once struggled with the same stumbling blocks that they may be wrestling with today. However, be sure to use spiritual discernment in knowing which story (or stories) to share. Depending on the spiritual maturity of the group members, some stories may not be proper to share at this time. For example, a story of sin and repentance that happened too recently (or is currently going on now) may subconsciously impact a group member’s ability to see you as an individual they can confide in. It may be unfortunate to admit it, but individuals even inside of the church may still be struggling with judging others or making improper presumptions that assume too much. As a general rule, it might be a safe practice to save ongoing sin/repentance stories that you are going through today for your discussions with your spiritual mentor, and to instead share only past stories of sin/repentance with the group (Naturally, this would not apply to storms that are not related to sin/repentance such as a family medical situation, job interviews, etc.).

Vulnerability encourages others to speak up.
Perhaps it’s more with guys, but men seem to have a bit harder of a time speaking up about challenges that they may be having in their lives. With my small group, if someone isn’t immediately eager to speak up after I’ve asked a question, sometimes I lead with a personal example from my life that pertains to the issue at hand. By sharing what I’ve gone through in the past, it seems to accomplish a few things: 1) it sparks a thought that a group member may suddenly remember after you shared your story, and 2) it helps the group not worry about being the awkward one that answers first. By being vulnerable first, it gives an example and sets the tone for the conversation ahead, encouraging others to chime in and add comments.

Vulnerability builds bridges.
I recently had a breakthrough moment with my small group on a retreat. I noticed that a few different group members shared a very intimate and deep struggle that they had gone through (or are going through), and it was a struggle that I too had experienced in the past. I took a moment to pause the group conversation and asked a question if anyone else had experienced (or are experiencing) the same struggle. Everyone at the table raised their hand. Everyone was silent. I took a moment to let the moment sink in before saying “I believe we all have a lot more in common with one another than we may have previously thought.” The devil’s goal is to get us to think that we are alone in our sin or that we are the only one struggling with the shame and guilt of what we have done in our lives. The truth is that we are all broken individuals, and that it’s more common than not that we share some sinful habits. By being vulnerable with one another, the group members can realize that they too are not alone in their spiritual journey. Whether or not they follow up directly with you, vulnerability within the group helps them identify with other individuals that they can confide in and be accountable to.

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