How many of us have joined a small group looking for authentic and transformational community only to leave frustrated or disappointed? Even if we've been together for months—or years—we wonder if we really know anyone in our group and if anyone truly knows us. As small-group leaders and directors, we believe our relationships, with Jesus and others, deepen when we share our lives with one another. Too often, though, our small group "sharing" is limited to answering Bible Study questions or offering prayer requests. We make space for snippets rather than stories.
But stories are important. We can experience healing as we share our story and listen to others' stories. Have you considered that over 70 percent of Scripture is narrative? That means the primary way God chose to reveal himself is through story. God knows that stories engage us on all levels: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical. He created us not just to have a story, but to be a revelation of the good story of the gospel. Every life is meant to uniquely reflect something of the character and kingdom of God that no other story can.
Author and counselor Dan Allender states, "If we come to know our story and then give it away, we will discover the deepest meaning of our lives. We will discover the Author who is embedded in our story, and we will know the glory he has designed for each one of us to reveal." The experiences of our lives affect how we relate to ourselves, others, and God. Our story shapes our relationships, spirituality, calling, and purpose. When we have questions like, "Why am I like this?" or "Why do I believe God is that way?" or "What am I supposed to be doing with my life?" discoveries and insights can be found when we explore our story and then share it with others.
So what if we took the time in our small groups to truly tell our stories to one another? When my small groups reach a point where there is a relational foundation of warmth and trust, we set aside a season to do some storytelling. Each person has an hour to share his or her story, and then invite the others in the group to engage the story. If people are willing to tell a good story, their real story, the time will be transformational for both the tellers and the listeners.
How do we tell our real stories? Let me tell you three stories and let you decide.
The First Story
I have been involved in small-group ministry for over 25 years. I attended my first women's ministry small group in 1996. I took a break from women's groups for a while and led a mix of different kinds of groups. I also have served as a Small Groups Director and Support & Recovery Ministry Director. This spring, I will be leading a new small group for five other women leaders.
The Second Story
Despite being a small-group leader for over 25 years, I have always felt a little uncomfortable or intimidated with women's ministry small groups. I didn't attend my first all women small group until I was a mom with small children. The women were very nice, but I still got nervous. The Bible says, "Cast all your anxieties on God because he cares for you," so I decided to stop worrying. I then trusted God even more and ended up leading women's groups! They are so great, and I have such great friends as a result! This spring, I am very excited to start a new group with other women small-group leaders, and I know it's going to be such a blessing.