Every leader should be humble, teachable, curious, and intentional because if you lead from that posture, it creates an environment that encourages transformation in the lives of those you lead.
There are lots of different ways to tell your stories in group. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about another one. It’s a unique approach with a lot of benefits.
The idea of telling your personal story to the other members of your group may seem a little uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be a big production.
Here are four ways you can guide your group members to structure their stories in a way that helps them to communicate the most important details and connect with the other members of the group.
[Today's post is by Donald Smith. Donald is part of Care at North Point Ministries.—Ed.]
It can be challenging to create a comfortable environment for telling stories in group because some group members are eager to talk about themselves and others are reluctant. Some people over-share and others under-share. So how do you find that sweet spot where everyone can tell his or her story in a way that leads to deeper connection within the group?
Here are three practical tips you can use to lead your group members to better storytelling.
- Lead the story. As the group's leader, it's your responsibility to cast a vision for why telling stories is an important part of building community. It's also up to you to model good storytelling. The way you tell your story may differ depending on the type of group you're leading. A long-term Community Group will want to dive deeper into stories in order to create a solid relational foundation. Short-term groups (Starting Point, Care Group, Access Group) may want to focus on a few key facts so that people feel comfortable enough to begin to open up to one another.
- Name the story. If you want to make sure everyone's story is focused, name the story. Say, “Who wants to tell his or her Eight-Minute Story next week?” If it's called "Eight-Minute Story," group members will assume that, well, they need to give an eight-minute story. Just make sure the time allotted is appropriate to the type of group—eight minutes isn't enough time for the kind of in-depth storytelling that happens in Community Group.
- Celebrate the story. As group members tell their stories, look for ways to encourage and connect with them. Always thank them for telling their stories. Provide positive feedback. Take notes and really focus on what each member may need and how you can help them. It’s always a good idea to give group members a quick call during the week after they their stories to see how they think it went and to thank them for sharing.
What are some things you've done to help group members to tell their stories well?
Telling your story in group can be intimidating . . . especially if you're the group leader. Your story will set the tone for everyone else's. So how do you tell it effectively? How do you know which details to include and which to leave out? How do you go about telling a condensed, thirty-minute version of your life that gives each of the important highlights the weight it deserves?
One idea is to create a Life Map.
The Life Map is a great tool for preparing to tell your story. It's a simple exercise that can produce profound results by helping you to identify the parts of your story that matter most to your group: the parts that have shaped who you are.
All you need to create your Life Map is:
- The Life Map Exercise (downloadable PDF)
- At least an hour to focus on your story
Once you've created your Life Map, you don't have to share it with your group (though you can if you want to). It's just a great tool for working through the details of your life in an organized way. It can also be a helpful point of reference for you to have on hand as you tell your story.
Feel free to print enough Life Map Exercises to give one to each member of your group . . . especially if they're looking for some help in preparing to tell their stories.
If you've led groups in the past, what tools have you used to prepare to tell your story?
If you formed a new group at GroupLink in January, you're probably getting close to doing Session 4 in Community: Starting Well. Beginning in Session 4 and lasting for at least three weeks, you and your group members will share your stories with one another. As the group's leader, you'll start things off. And believe it or not, your story—the way you tell it—has the power to set the trajectory for the rest of your group experience.
No pressure, right?
Here's the good news: what I'm not saying is that your story needs to be as riveting as a Steven Spielberg movie. What I am saying is that the members of your group will probably only be as open and transparent when they tell their stories as you are when you tell yours. You're going to set the standard.
So, go there.
Don't sugarcoat your story. Don't try to present yourself as a perfect Christian (you're not a perfect Christian and neither is anyone else). If there's sin in your story, go there. If there's loss in your story, go there. If there's tragedy in your story, go there. After all, there's sin, loss, and tragedy in everyone's story. None of us lives a charmed life. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Telling your story—your true story—can be intimidating. We all fear rejection. There's a little voice in the back of our minds that says, "If they really knew me . . . ." But telling your true warts-and-all story may be the thing that creates deep connection in your group because it may give everyone else in the group permission to be open and transparent as well.
Transparency is a priceless relational commodity in our culture. People rarely feel free to really be themselves among others. If you're brave enough to be open with your story, you'll give your group members a great gift: an invitation to be open with theirs.
First Thessalonians 5:10–11 says, "[Jesus] died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." But before we can encourage and build one another up, we have to be honest with one another about who we are. Telling each other our stories can be a huge step in that direction.
So, go there.