Your small group is only as deep/good as the least vulnerable member in it.
This is not a black-and-white statement. I think about the current group of high school guys that I lead. Some are verbal processors. It’s easy for them to get to verbal vulnerability because they are constantly talking. For those who are internal processors, saying a few words is a big deal. When the internal processors share, it usually has a lot of weight to it.
Vulnerability looks different for each person, but it’s a greenhouse for a small group. When people know they are safe and trusted, it can be powerful.
If your group stays superficial, then it may be a great social gathering, but things change when people get real and honest. It becomes a safe place. A group then becomes an authentic community in a new way.
How do you lead your group to vulnerability? It takes time and relationship. It also takes sharing your heart as a leader and trusting that. Now, you must wisely consider boundaries for how much you share. I might share things with my adult group that would not be appropriate for my high schoolers.
If you are leading teenagers now, don’t be shocked that the Snapchat generation has trouble being vulnerable. It takes time to learn how to have community. Model the way and build relationships that lead to trust. One of the principles I share in my new book is this—time + truth = influence.
Don’t expect your group to be vulnerable if you are not willing to do so yourself.
This principle is key to the lifespan of a group. As I think of my 20+ years of leading teenagers, I recall moments when a student shared something and it changed the trajectory of a group. I also recall hoping and praying students would share something, but they chose not to. I clearly remember sharing something personal with a group and how if affected the group at that time.
And don’t forget, that is trusted information. Unless a student is hurting himself or someone else, you need to guard that information. If someone shares something vulnerable with you, and you tell others, it might sever that communication. If someone shares something, be sure to follow up and thank him for sharing. Let them know you are with them.
Vulnerability can very well be the on-ramp to a new level of authentic community for your small group. As you pray for and lead your group, take time to ask God to help your students find the wisdom in being vulnerable.