Thursday, January 10, 2013

Creating an Environment of Trust in Your Small Groups

Do you lead a small group? If so, do the members feel safe to share their struggles, their fears, and their needs?  Are your discussions deep, reflective, and honest?

I believe small groups are where real life-change happens. Every group takes time to bond and feel secure, but you can help the process along by establishing discussion guidelines, creating boundaries,  and promoting healthy interaction. Guidelines help create an environment of trust within your group by making boundaries and expectations clear.

Below are the small group guidelines I currently suggest for discussion groups associated with Fruitful Word Ministries and for other Women’s Bible Study small groups.

  1. Confidentiality is of utmost importance. I understand that all information shared with this small group is to remain within the group. (Ephesians 4:29)
  2. I will refrain from advice giving or providing explanations for others. Instead, I will offer a listening ear and share how God has worked through similar situations in my life. (Romans 14:19)
  3. I will listen carefully to what others have to say without interrupting or engaging in side conversations. When sharing, I will be respectful of the limited time and allow others to speak. (Philippians 2:4, James 1:19)
  4. I will refrain from negative discussions regarding other people, especially my spouse. When asking for prayer or support, I will keep specific names or situations of people outside the group private and focus on how to apply God’s Word to challenging circumstances. (Philippians 4:8)
  5. I will make an effort to complete the lessons beforehand and stay focused on discussing what I’ve learned from the current week’s homework. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  6. I will be sensitive and non-judgmental. We are at different places in our spiritual journeys, come from various denominational backgrounds, and the Holy Spirit works among us in different ways. (Romans 15:7)

Whether you use this set of guidelines or create your own, I suggest you print a copy for each member of the group, read and discuss your guidelines so everyone understands their purpose, and have members acknowledge the guidelines by signing a master copy.

As you encounter challenging dynamics within your group, referring back to your agreed upon guidelines can be a helpful method of maintaining healthy, grace-filled discussions that will cultivate personal relationships and encourage spiritual growth.

What other tools do you use to help create an atmosphere of growth and trust in your small groups? Please share by posting a comment.



  1. Thank you for providing these guidelines. I appreciate the follow-up from your concepts at Women's Ministry Expo.

  2. I'm glad these were helpful, Lori. Marnie always does a great job on the Expos.