Transformation is our goal in small groups. At the same time, it is something that is not up to us. God is the author of transformation. We cannot, by following certain steps or doing the right thing, bring about transformation in our own life or the lives of others. The most we can do is simply be open to it—to put ourselves, and our groups, in the best position possible for God to do his work.
So what can small groups do to help bring about transformation? This is one of those times when it would be nice to have "five steps toward transformation," or a nifty acronym, or better yet, an acrostic of the word transformation—"T" is for "take time to reflect … ." But transformation cannot be wrapped up with a pretty bow. There's no formula. No way to plan for it.
Deep transformation is possible for people in small-group community, but skills and spiritual maturity on the part of the facilitator are often the vehicles the Spirit chooses to use to get us there. Transformation is the end; skills are the bridge that helps us cross the chasm to get there. As facilitators, we develop skills and maturity to maintain openness to our own transformation and—potentially—to be used by God as an agent of transformation in the lives of others.
Given the lack of a formula, we cannot make transformation happen. We lack that power. But we can open the door and invite God in. So following are a few scattered thoughts about how facilitators can help their groups try to maintain a posture of openness to the transformation that God will bring about if and when he chooses. Skills and strategies are great for small-group facilitators to have and use, a sincere openness to deep transformation, there's really not much point.
So here are our thoughts—ways to try to maintain an openness to what God may be doing.
Engage in Personal Transformation
First, we need to engage in our own transformation. As facilitators, we need to notice how God may be speaking to us and to engage in our own transformational opportunities in order to take notice of the opportunities in the lives of others. Viewing transformation as an activity needed by others but not ourselves moves us into dangerous territory.
- Spend time in prayer. Since God is the sole source of transformation, we need to ask him to do his work in us. Prayer will help bring about a posture of openness, both individual and corporate.
- Take time to reflect. We don't often take the time necessary to be transformed in our culture—we have an inordinate fear of free time. Without taking the time to reflect on our experiences, it's unlikely we'll gain wisdom from those experiences, much less transformation. Small groups provide the somewhat unique opportunity in our culture as a place to process with a group of people rather than in isolation or one-on-one. They provide space for reflection—take advantage of that.
- Be in deeper community with others. Transformation rarely happens in isolation, but it's also less likely in a large group. It often takes a small community, an inner circle, to help us see what's going on in and around us.
Kent was struggling with trust in his marriage. He had been burned in his relationship with his ex-wife who had been unfaithful, and so this time around he came up with a strategy for protecting himself. Kent began trying to impose strict boundaries on his current marriage in order to feel safer, but those boundaries became increasingly restrictive and unhealthy. He sought to prevent any interaction between his wife and other men. Kent's wife became increasingly worried and felt he didn't trust her. Eventually she started pushing back on the boundaries he was trying to impose.