How do you get a group of people to start talking and start being real?
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.
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.