There is so much to say regarding this and this is definitely an "always learning" area.
First - Don't let this overwhelm you. If you feel underdeveloped here, don't let this stop you from stepping up to the challenge.
Second - If you are overwhelmed, you are not alone.
Third - This is what community is all about. Meeting people where they are at and living authentic and genuine lives with them. Care and counseling is really just an extension of our main mission in Community Life.
It's not all counseling. Sometimes it is meeting a physical need or just being there for someone. (birthdays, circumstantial struggles, maybe a child's ballgame!)
Devoting time to help others grow is easily neglected. Community Life creates space to be known and to be supported. So that, together, we build joy and confidence to live for Christ.
We need each other.
Continue reading to be take your next step in best practices of being a leader of a Community Group. There will be a couple general times where Care and Counseling will be needed.
Formal group time during discussions and share times. This is where someone will ask a question or pose a problem in their life. Or they may open up and share something very private or sensitive to them.
Informal time. Either before or after a group time. Or just in building a relationship with them outside of group life.
Asking Good Questions
Being like Jesus
Tips to giving space for people to talk.
This is going require a lot of self-control.
You may have to stop someone else from jumping in too quickly too.
At times, let there be silence. Many people need that extra moment to think or to decide to speak up at all.
Ask clarifying questions.
Did I hear you say...?
Did I understand you when you said...?
Did I hear you correctly when you said...?
Could you please elaborate on that?
Tell me more about…
What did you mean when you said…?
Open discussion to group after a response.
This means asking follow up questions.
“Why do you think what she said is important for us to hear?”
“Do any of you feel the same as what was just share? Why or why not?”
Don’t respond to every answer.
Ask the group members to respond.
“How can we care for/encourage her right now?” talk about important news.
Discussions in group life and general relationships can be risky for both parties. At times, things will be said that may not be accurate or helpful. It can stir a conversation about life or about doctrine in all kinds of directions. Be discerning on when you may need to step in and correct thinking or the way someone is behaving. This must be done in humility and love. Doing nothing isn't an option. It will only perpetuate the problem and leave people confused about a topic, or generally about your leadership.
Ideally you can wait until after group. You can have a side conversation with them. Ask them about what they said and gently encourage them with the right biblical truth.
Correction needs to be done gently, especially if you feel like it needs to be done in front of the group. If someone says something that is biblically incorrect, gently thank them for sharing and then give the correction… WITH SCRIPTURE. That way, it is not you that is offensive, it is the Bible that is offensive. However, just because you use Scripture, doesn't mean the way you "use it" doesn't matter. Jesus was full of truth and grace. Seek to emulate Him.
There are going to be different personalities. This is going to require shepherding on your part. There might be someone who says great things, but they dominate the discussion by talking way too much. Have a one on one conversation with them and gently ask them how they think group is going and then encourage them that there are people who don’t have a chance to participate.
Let's start by looking at types of unhelpful questions.
Searching for the right answer. Don't ask a question only to guide people to a specific response. This is called teaching and it is better to just use your leadership in giving directives than asking questions for them just to give you what you are fishing for.
Complicated questions. Sometimes silence isn't because people are shy, it's because the are confused and just don't know what you are asking. And maybe they are too shy to say they are confused. Bounce the questions off someone else first.
Too general. If the question is too broad, it will elicit a variety of responses that may drive the conversation into "rabbit trails."
Closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are questions that can be answered with a yes or a no.
Examples of closed-ended questions:
Did you like the passages this week?
Did you have a good week?
Do you think God intends for us to _____ ?
Asking Good Questions:
Open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer.
Examples of Open-ended Questions:
What was most meaningful to you about this?
How would you describe the passage in your own words?
Deepening Questions - Questions that make people think at more of the heart level.
What was one thing that the Lord revealed to you through this passage?
Why do you think.....?
What is something that you struggle with after reading this passage?
Could you please elaborate on that?
Tell me more about why you feel that way.
Say that you are sorry that they are going through this.
Thank them for having the courage to share what they did and opening up to the group.
Let the person know you heard their struggle.
Let the person know that God is there and that He understands the struggle. Use scripture.
Let the person know you will stand with them.
Stop and pray if you discern the moment deserves this.
Try and really understand what was going on?
Ask about what was he/she thinking or feeling as it was happening?
Ask what they did in response?
Ask why they responded in a certain way? What were you hoping to accomplish?
Ask what the result was?
Jesus was excellent at all of the above. Don't let His deity cause you to feel unable to follow Him in His footsteps. He gave us His Holy Spirit and commanded us to follow Him. He lived in both Truth and Grace. Leading, listening, correcting, asking good questions, and being empathetic doesn't have to all be at odds with other. It is all apart of a lifestyle of loving and understanding people and giving them both clarity from God's Word and genuine understanding and care for their souls and where they are. Remember Paul said, "But by the grace of God, I am what I am." 1 Corinthians 15:10. We have all had wrong thinking at times in our lives and we have all gone through hard times. Be compassionate as we lead others to Jesus and to be like Jesus.
Speaking truth is not an option
Speak truth after you love and know, not before
Speak truth to yourself first
Speaking truth is a lifestyle not just an event
The failure to speak truth is hatred, not love
Speak truth with the right goals (redemption vs. condemnation)
Speak the truth of the gospel: give grace and hope
Speaking truth with a posture of care and concern is much different than judgement and condemnation. There may be a time to sternly correct someone or to drive out money changers from God's temple, but this is not typical in your Community Group times. More often than not, if you create a safe environment for people to share their struggles and their questions, you will have a great opportunity to love someone with truth and not have to subtly or harshly correct someone.
Now, if a brother or sister is in sin, this will warrant speaking to them privately. Following the guidance of Matthew 18:15-17.
Being Missionary Minded - Blessing the Broken in tangible ways, both in Word and deed.