Being a small group leader is a big responsibility. Really big, actually. Not to scare you, but it’s true. It’s up to you to create a safe place for your few to come and wrestle with questions, doubts, fears… real issues. And the first step to creating that safe environment is making sure your few know they can trust you—know you are a solid presence they can lean on. But here’s the good news! You don’t have to be perfect. It’s better if you are relatable and real. Just remember, the key is to always keep in mind WHO you are relating to. Although it’s important that you bond well with your group and that your group becomes a safe place to share, it’s imperative to remember you are relating to kids, not adults. They are certainly not your buddies or licensed therapists. Because when these lines get blurred, roles are reversed and your few no longer feel safe enough to trust you with their struggles. After all, you seem to have enough struggles of your own!
My first brush with this issue came as a kid—an older elementary kid to be exact. One of my Sunday school teachers (that’s what we called them at the time) felt it necessary to share his testimony with us. Actually, our class heard a piece of his story every few months or so. He had an extremely interesting story and he was quite enamored with it. He spoke about his past before becoming a Christian, which consisted of many references to drugs and girlfriends. Even at that age, I realized he seemed to be a lot more energized and amused about his pre-Christian days than he was about the parts of his life that came after he became a believer. It perplexed me. He really seemed to relish those wilds days. He would almost relive them as he told us—his “buddies”. His 5th grade Sunday school class. Appropriate? I think not. Did I tell my parents at the time? Nope. Did it leave an impression? Well, I’m 35 now, and certainly remember most of the details.
Never underestimate your influence and use it wisely.
Another example of inappropriate sharing came many years later while I was working to equip our children’s ministry with solid SGLs. I found the most wonderful college guy to lead our 5th grade boy small group. I was so excited! All the parents were excited! It was a win. Several weeks went by and I noticed that attendance started to dwindle in that particular group. Then, the phone rang. It was a boy in the group’s mother. She proceeded to tell me how the small group leader’s girlfriend had recently broken up with him and he was devastated. The time he spent with his small group consisted of him sharing with the boys about what had happened leading up to the breakup and how angry and resentful he felt towards his girlfriend. There were tears. He relived the breakup as he told them—his “therapists”. His 5th grade small group. Appropriate? Not even close.
I’ll say it again. As you are creating a safe place, never underestimate your influence and use it wisely. This seems like common sense, but when life throws a curve ball, it can be harder for us leaders to keep this at the forefront of our minds. Just remember, you are there for your few—not the other way around!