Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Group Connection Ideas

Our small group met last night, our third meeting so far. We are still kind of in the that stage where everyone is trying to figure out what's happening and what we are going to be about. Even though I have given a vision of "just doing life together" my sense is that most people don't really believe it and want you to prove it. Question: How do you get people to bond, to share, to be vulnerable and real? After all, this desire to know and be known is strong within all us. From my experience as a leader I have found there are a few things that often work:

1. Ask the Magic Question. Just having a sharing time as part of a meeting or get together is usually not enough to get people who are not used to being real with each other to suddenly become so. At some point, someone has to ask what I call the Magic Question: "How are you doing?" If you don't ask this question (or a derivative of it), little will probably happen. This question is magic because it challenges people to share where they really are. We asked this question for the first time last night and I could tell people were uncomfortable with it. There was a long silence and the the person who was going to answer struggled at first to find the words. But after a moment or two he began and shared some real and important things. It was real, it was powerful, it was actual "sharing." Something changed in the room and in the group. "Aha," I thought, "now we are getting somewhere!" Asking the Magic question in a safe environment is the quickest way to create deepness, bonding, and emotional connection between people. Tip: don't make this question a demand, but rather an invitation. Give people an out ("share if you wish or pass if you don't want to").

2. Ask someone to share a testimony. Sharing/hearing a person's life story (especially faithwise) is another way to get people to feel emotionally connected as a group and engaged with each other. Since by our nature most of us are protective about sharing our "stuff" with each other, to hear someone else do so helps us connect with the speaker and with the rest of our group. The other day in church we had a sharing time (unusual for us) and as people shared their victories and struggles you could feel the bonding strengthen in the room. Something very different was felt that day - a new connection with others. Tip: Making time for testimonies in meetings and groups may seem like a less efficient use of time and making it is difficult for many to prioritize it (especially if your meeting is only an hour or so). But I find that intense sharing/testimonies actually increase the productivity of a group over the long run. Ask people who are more authentic to share first - they'll set the mood and be an example for others.

3. Shared intense experiences. The word fellowship means "common sharing" and nothing induces bonding more then doing intense, memory-making activities together. What makes something intense? A few things come to mind: people are out of their comfort zones, emotions are elevated, the task is difficult, it is out of the ordinary, risk is involved in some way. The LiMiT team training I used to do would quickly bond groups because they combined all of these factors. Tip: Don't try to overplan such experiences, instead plan an intense activity that has the potential for good things to happen and then let it go where it will. The trick is that the activity will be in the "sweet spot," not so intense that it terrifies people and turns them against you nor too easy that people are not challenged.

These are just a few of my ideas, but I'd love to hear from you what helped bond your group together and what happened to help people be real and vulnerable with each other. Ever been stuck in a group that just couldn't seem to share? What were your best and worst connection experiences?


Anonymous said...

My best friends are my small group. Guys that i have known my whole life like Travis, Dahlen, Evan, and Jensen are people that i can really open up to and share "how i am doing" and vice versa.
Thank God for friends!

Mark said...

You are a lucky man Eric, not everyone (especially guys) has that kind of group of friends. Enjoy!