4 Ways to Make an Unsafe Group Safe

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Earlier this week, I wrote about what constitutes a "safe environment." It's all about people finding the freedom to be vulnerable with one another because you can't really grow until you start getting real. But what do you do if you're group is already "unsafe"? How do you turn things around when group members are already wary of being transparent?

Here are four approaches you can take:

  1. Take personal responsibility and ownership. As you take a look at your group environment to assess why it's unsafe, don't assume it's someone else's fault. Look at yourself first. Is there anything you are doing to hamper connection and growth in your group? Self-examination isn't easy, but it is what leaders are called to do.
  2. Determine whether it's a general group issue or only involves one or two members. Once you've assessed your role in the lack of safety in your group, consider whether and how many group members are also contributing to the problem. If it's just one or two group members, have a conversation with that person or those people. Pray . . . a lot, so you are able to enter into these conversations with your heart in the right place.
  3. Talk about it openly with the group. Don't throw particular group members under the bus, but have a conversation about where the group is and where it needs to be. You can't ignore an unsafe environment and hope it will fix itself. It won't. Acknowledging that there's a problem may give your group members the permission and the patience to begin to resolve the problem . . . together. You probably won't be able to fix things on your own without the help and cooperation of your group members.
  4. Revisit the vision. Take some time during a meeting to review the Group Agreement. This is a great way to reset everyone's expectations and initiate a discussion about the ways that what you're currently experiencing differ from what you agreed to at the outset of the group experience.

If your group has drifted into "unsafe" territory, all is not lost. It'll take some effort and probably require some uncomfortable conversations, but you can get things back on track. The key is to be honest with yourself and honest with your group members about what is happening.

What approaches have you taken to ensure that you're creating a safe environment for your group members?