I just finished reading through several personal columns. As the high school journalism adviser, I was on the lookout for anything that might put my job in jeopardy - libelous statements, profanity, references to sex, drugs, or inappropriate rock and roll. Instead, I found feelings explored, once-hidden hurts revealed, and epiphanies explained. These young writers had chosen to leave the insecurity of high school hallways and locker bays, friendships and rivalries, expectations and disappointments, to look deep into their hearts and pour their personal introspection onto paper. Caleb opened the door of his heart and let his peers see his three-year struggle with depression. Mari spoke candidly about what it was like to have her mechanic dad crushed by a car and live. Carolyn added up the failures of her life and came up with the sum of fulfillment as she looked at how each had led her closer to her involvement in journalism. I asked myself, how does a teacher put a grade on growth? I decided that allowing 1100 peers to read sacred words most people never dare to utter in a lifetime is A+ work. Month after month, I see these teens becoming more confident and at peace with themselves. It is obvious to me that every person has a story to tell, and in the telling it, his or her life is radically changed.
This month, offer your small group members the opportunity to tell their story. Set aside an entire meeting for this exercise. Begin with a barrier breaker and a time of worship. After opening in prayer, allow about ten minutes for each person to write down five defining moments in his or her life. These moments can include an illness or injury, a disappointment, an accomplishment, or a challenge. In pairs, have each person select one story they are willing to share. Instead of telling their story, each person should take turns asking questions of the other about his or her story. These questions could include:
- Who was involved in the incident? Who was affected?
- What was the cause of the incident? What happened? What did you feel?
- When did the incident take place? When were you first able to talk about it?
- Where did it take place?
- Why did it happen? Why was the outcome _______? (painful, exciting, etc.)
- How have you dealt with the ramifications of the incident? How was your life changed because of it? How can this story encourage others?
When everyone has had the opportunity to share their story, bring the group back together. Ask the group to talk about the experience of sharing their stories.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Send a valentine, with his or her favorite scripture about love, to an elderly person.
- Cook and serve a young teenage couple dinner.
- Invite a neighbor to see a movie in the theater.