Here is another key ingredient that will help foster intimacy and none of us like it…
Time and Patience
Intimacy among a group of people doesn’t happen fast. The type of intimacy where life transformation takes place is the product of faithfully giving ourselves to care for each other over an extended period of time. With that being true, we should fight against getting frustrated when what we desire does not happen as quickly as we would like. We also cannot force intimacy. Our part is to be faithful in caring for and encouraging one another in the Lord so that the stage is set for the Holy Spirit to move when He wants to move.
It was after Jesus spent 3 years with His disciples that He said in John 15:14, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Over the course of three years of spending a significant amount of time together, making themselves known to each other and sharing experiences together, Jesus calls them friends.
In 1 Thess. 2:7-12, Paul says they were gentle and caring like a mother and encouraging like a father…laboring night and day. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy worked hard in their commitment to seeing transformation in people’s lives. In their commitment they took the time to build deep relationships that looked like those within a family. When we get to the point of treating each other as family, there is deep intimacy.
The point is be patient, be faithful, and model the type of intimacy that you desire to see happen in your group.
Here are a few things that will help move you forward.
• Create opportunities outside of official group time for the group to just hang out.
• Plan times to serve together. The shared experience of serving others together creates a moment where the group must learn to work together and sacrifice together and thus create a tighter bond.
• Model and challenge those in your group to schedule one-on-one time with other members of the group.
• Schedule regular time in your group gatherings for each individual to tell their story in 15 minutes.
One of the ways that we miss the fullness of what God may be saying in a discussion is limiting ourselves to the “official” questions on the list. If we limit our discussion to the listed questions we may miss an opportunity to flesh out what the Spirit is trying to say. Learning to listen to what is being said and then asking a good following question that is specific to their answer can take the discussion to a more personal level. For example, suppose the question on your study guide is something like, “Does this passage teach you something new about the character of God?” Someone in your group responds with something like, “This passage reminds that God is faithful to his promises.” That is obviously a theologically correct answer that should be affirmed. But, the person’s answer also gives you an opportunity to ask a follow-up question.
I might ask, “Do you think there is a reason that you need to be reminded of His faithfulness right now?” I might preface the question by asking, “Do you mind if I ask you another question?” or “Feel free to share as little or as much as you are comfortable sharing.” If the person is open to sharing more, then an effective follow-up question can take a good general answer to a deeper personal level.
There are endless possibilities for effective follow-up questions.
Sample Follow-Up Questions
Why is that truth important to you?
Why do you think you feel that way?
Why do you think God is teaching you this lesson?
Can you explain in more detail what you mean by that answer?
How are you seeing that truth work itself out in your life right now?
What do you mean by that?
When was a time when you saw this truth at work in your life?
TIPS FOR GOOD FOLLOW UPS
Pray as you listen. Always ask the Holy Spirit to give you ears to hear what He is trying to say in the moment. Ask Him to help you know if you should ask more questions.
Practice good listening. A good listener has the goal to gain and understanding of the other person.
Be respectful. Respect the persons comfort level in the group before asking for specifics. A person who is new to the group should not be expected to be as transparent as someone who has been there for a while.
Ask permission. Before asking a follow-up question ask, “Do you mind if I ask you another question?”
Involve the group. After asking a follow up question, it can be effective to ask the rest of the group for additional input, encouragement, or if they have had similar/different thoughts or experiences.
Don’t force it. If you do not have a clear follow up question, do not force one.