When you notice a change, seek to understand why the shift is happening. Rather than jump to a judgment, seek clarity by asking questions to gain understanding about the root causes and contributing factors of what you've observed: "I noticed you crossed your arms when Joe was speaking. Can you help me understand?" When you seek clarity, you can better lead the group.
Sometimes singling someone out to clarify can be more awkward in a group setting. If possible, make an observation about the group: "I noticed when I asked that question, the group got really quiet. Why is that?" Other times, you might need to wait until after the group meeting to seek clarity with an individual. This is especially true if there are strong emotions involved, or if the person might be embarrassed if you brought it up in front of the whole group. When you're in a safe, private environment say: "I noticed you didn't share tonight. I wanted to check in with you to see if everything is okay."
Check in with yourself right now:
Consider a conversation you've had in the last week where you felt frustrated or irritated. Did you start the conversation with a factual observation or a judgment?
As small-group leaders, it's our job to create safety and help people experience Christ's love through our words, actions, and attitudes. When we can separate out fact and judgment, we communicate, "It's safe here, and you are valued." These strategies will communicate your deep concern and love for your group members, and they can move your relationships deeper as you withhold judgment and seek first to understand.
—Beth Racine, M.Ed. is President and Founder of Envision Innovation. She has a heart and passion to see hurting and struggling people find hope, overcome obstacles, and achieve success both personally and professionally.