How to Help Group Members Embrace Intimacy

If you go slowly, intimacy will happen naturally.

How do you deal with people in your small group who are afraid of intimacy? Perhaps they should start biblically—by greeting one another with a holy kiss … or maybe not.

Seriously, I think folks need to warm up to intimacy. They first need to know that they can trust the other people in the group—trust not only that they can share their own stuff, but trust that they can "take" other people's sharing. That trust may need to build for a long period of time for some folks, and it probably needs to happen as much outside meeting times as inside. In the meeting, slightly deeper icebreakers each week may help.

I've found that people start wanting the intimacy when they need it—when they have a deep hurt or serious need in their own lives. If trust has been built, intimacy happens naturally. The worst thing you can do is to force intimacy upon people.

One other thing, I think the leader must take the lead (amazing insight, isn't it?). Little by little, I open up and am transparent. I pray for discernment, discuss it with my apprentice leader, and pray that the group will be ready go to the next level of transparency. The whole thing must be bathed in prayer.

If a person or couple still have difficulties with the level of transparency (which I've never experienced when going slowly with it), I'd talk personally with them, allow them to express their feelings, show them that this is a natural part of the group process, help them see that some people need to open up, and allow them to make whatever decision they feel they need to make. Allow them to be "transparent" with their feelings about the depth of intimacy!

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