Note: This article has been excerpted from our resource Are We Building Trust?
There are many ingredients that come together to create a deep and meaningful small-group experience. Without a doubt, two of these ingredients are trust and authenticity. When these are present, group members can open up about their struggles and victories in a way that allows others to walk with them toward spiritual growth. They can also ask difficult questions and share serious doubts without fear of judgment.
Conversely, when trust and authenticity are lacking, a small group is doomed to biblical small talk and pseudo-growth. While there are a number of factors that contribute to a group's ability to be open and honest with each other, one of the most important is the modeling of the leader. Small-group leaders have an amazing amount of influence on the culture of the group. If the leader models trust and authenticity, group members are likely to follow suit.
Use this assessment to determine how well you are modeling trust and authenticity to your small group. Want an even more accurate picture? Have your coach fill out this assessment for you after visiting your group, or ask your small-group members to fill it out and then compare their results to yours.
Assign a number between 1 and 10 to each of the following statements.
0: Strongly Disagree 5: Neither Agree nor Disagree 10: Strongly Agree
1. _____ I value being understanding over being right.
2. _____ When I need to challenge something that's been said, I do so gently.
3. _____ I share relevant details of my own struggles and victories.
4. _____ I tell group members when I'm not sure of an answer.
5. _____ I talk about the importance of trust during group meetings.
6. _____ I intentionally move the group past small talk.
7. _____ I admit when I am wrong and take responsibility.
8. _____ I have never shared things that were meant to be kept confidential.
9. _____ I maintain eye contact when talking to people.
10. _____ I listen to each person's perspective, even when I disagree.
11. _____ I never respond with sarcasm to the things people share.
12. _____ I never make fun of theological positions different than my own.
13. _____ I never gossip about others in the group.
14. _____ I stop and talk to group members at church services and activities.
15. _____ I care about group members' lives and spiritual growth.
16. _____ I ask questions instead of just giving answers.
Total #1-8 _____
Overall Total _____
The scores are broken down into two parts for a specific reason. The first group of questions addresses a small-group leader's overt leadership in the area of authenticity and trust. These are the things that most obviously impact the environment of the group.
The second group of questions addresses a small-group leader's subtle leadership. There are many things that group leaders and members alike don't think about that have a significant impact on how authentic and trusting the group becomes.
Dividing the assessment into these areas can identify potential areas of growth even if the group is fairly trusting and authentic on the whole. Below is a general guide to evaluating the scores for each section and the total score.
- 64 and above: This indicates an excellent job by the group leader in the specific area addressed by this group of questions.
- 40-63: The group leader is doing some things well in this specific area. However, there is also significant room for growth.
- 39 and under: The group leader needs to work hard on improving in the area addressed by this group of questions.
- 128 and above: This indicates an excellent job by the group leader in modeling trust and authenticity and creating a group environment where these things can flourish.
- 80-127: The group leader is clearly doing some modeling of trust and authenticity and creating a group environment where these things can flourish. However, there is also significant room for growth.
- 79 and under: The group leader needs to work hard on improving as a model of trust and authenticity. They are not doing the things that create a group environment where these things can flourish.
Whether the results from this assessment are negative or positive, see it as a blessing. Remember why you agreed to lead a small group in the first place. I doubt it was so you could always feel comfortable and lead people in shallow conversations. No, you chose to be a leader because you care about your spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of others. The goal is not comfort; it is transformation and authentic community. These things will never happen unless you are real about the things that need to change.
Make some goals to improve how you model trust and authenticity for your group. Be sure to tell your coach, too, so he or she can check in with you and encourage you along the way. Be intentional, and know that God is using you to build a culture of trust and authenticity in your group where everyone can grow. May God bless and guide you as you tackle this honor and responsibility.
—Trevor Lee; copyright 2012 by Christianity Today International.