Groups 4 minutes to read

Everyone who sits in a Pure Desire group will eventually come across the phrase, “You were wounded in relationship and you need to be healed in relationship.” We come up against the ultimate double bind—the thing we need the most is also the thing we fear the most: each other.

From the start, we know that sitting in a group is going to be difficult. Leading to this moment, we have all isolated in one way or another, and now we are learning to be rigorously honest in front of others. It’s difficult, but if we can make it through the challenges of being in a group like this, it’s worth it! Here are a few things that may help you better understand the group experience.

Facilitate vs. Lead

I remember the first time I attended a recovery group. I had just stepped down from my role as a pastor. I walked into a room full of guys that, for the most part, looked like every other men’s group I had attended. It felt refreshing knowing that I would not be the one leading the group. But then it was my turn to share. Almost immediately I shifted into my comfortable role as a “leader.” I felt like everyone was looking at me, depending on me to know and say the right thing. I had to know it all. I needed them to need the words coming out of my mouth. I wasn’t even the group leader. It was just so ingrained in me.

This is the feeling that most of us have when we think of leading a group, Bible study, prayer meeting, or worship service. The idea of leading becomes very convoluted for most of us. Just for fun, I looked up the definition. There are 37 different uses for the word “lead”—37!

It’s no wonder when we say that we are “leading” a group, we are a little unsure or mistaken on what we should be doing. We say or hear the word “lead” and immediately start down various mental paths. On the other hand, the word “facilitate” has only one meaning: to make an action or process easy or easier.

Remember, your group does not need a leader. They don’t need to hang on your every word or look to you as an example of health and perfection. They, we, need someone who is going to make this painful, difficult, and oftentimes hellish process a little easier.

We need someone who will point us in the right direction and then get out of the way. Someone who knows how to fill out a double bind but lets us do it on our own. Someone who cares more about creating a safe place than proving their point. This may seem like a nuance, the difference between the two terms, but it’s important. It will allow a group to thrive based on all the members of the group, as opposed to one person sitting in a taller chair. People trust a facilitator; they are hesitant about leaders. Who knows which of the 37 choices a leader is going to make. A facilitator can simply ask themselves the question, “Am I making this easier for the people in my group?”

The Honesty Smokescreen

I remember thinking of myself as an honest man. I was honest about some things, but it was really just a way for me to throw up a smokescreen, so that I could hide in plain sight. Maybe I was really honest about one thing so that people would think I was really honest about all things. Being brutally honest in a couple areas actually became a way for me to effectively keep secrets in many other areas.

We need to be careful that we don’t use this tactic in our group. If we do, we will create a superficial type of honesty that will eat away at the integrity of the group and keep us from getting the health we need. People will begin to distrust each other, knowing that the full truth isn’t coming out. Slowly, what was meant to be a safe place will become just another performance group. 

Let’s make sure we are striving to be rigorously honest instead of distracting people from our fears and secrets with partial honesty.

Phone Calls

Yes. Good old phone calls! Checking in is so important in our group. When a group first starts, practically no one is making phone calls to each other during the week. It’s understandable. After all, we are good at isolating. However, as the group moves forward, these check-ins become the lifeblood of the group.

Two things come to mind.

FIRST: the phone call is for the one actually picking up the phone and dialing the number; the one initiating the call. They are reaching out. This act alone is a big step. If you happen to be the one receiving the phone call and you pick up, that’s great, but that doesn’t count as a phone call on your part. This might sound harsh, but the reality is that your health is your responsibility. Fighting the fear of picking up the phone is important for each one of us. Don’t rely on your group members to call you.

SECOND: “If you are not checking in, you’re checking out.” Phone calls during the week become one of the best ways for us to break out of isolation. When we resist making phone calls we are choosing to check out and isolate. When everyone takes these calls seriously it changes the whole atmosphere of the group. We actually rely on each other for support instead of just bleed on each other once a week.

Show up. Be present. Whatever it is, face it.

Robert Vander Meer

Robert is a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP), certified through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Robert and his wife, Rebecca, represented Pure Desire in Latin America for a few years before returning to the United States to join the clinical staff in 2013. He is the Associate Pastor at The Oregon Community and one of the founders of The Oregon Public House.

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