Contributions from Barb Condra (CG Leader)
The most common single type of writing in the Bible is narrative…story.* There’s obviously something profound about sharing story, if God chose to use this as one of the primary ways of revealing himself to us. If your group members have never been given the opportunity to know each other and be known by others in the group through sharing life stories, you’re missing one of the essential building blocks in the foundation for transformational group life.
Shared stories build a bridge for others to help them in their transformational process.
When group members hear how others in the group have let God work in them to effect change it does two things: First, it provides an example of hope for them and it gives them someone to talk with who can understand their struggles. After listening to one of these stories, one woman came to me in tears and said she had no idea that there were people in our group who had been divorced more than once. She had been divorced three times and was afraid to tell people that. Second, it demonstrates that God is at work today in changing people’s lives. You don’t have to be Saul of Tarsus to experience God’s transformational power. You can be just the “guy” who sits next to you in group.
For the past ten years we have continued to have group members share their personal stories. Some have chosen not to and we respect that choice; but the majority have shared and all have said it was one of the best things they ever did.
Do’s & Don’ts of Sharing
If sharing one’s story is a new thing for a group member, these guidelines will help them prepare.
- Don’t assume that quiet, shy people won’t share. The shiest people in our group told our first two stories. (That also sets a standard that if “Bob” could stand up and share, you probably could, too.)
- Give people time to prepare, both emotionally and logistically (don’t spring it on them–give plenty of notice to be able to prepare) .
- Give them some guidelines as they prepare:
- Time: 5-20 minutes is about right – depending on how much of their life story they are asked to share.
- Encourage them to write out their story ahead of time.
- Reading it out loud before they give it helps them identify places where they may get emotional and that helps them plan ways to “keep it together.”
- Include some humor – even the most traumatic of stories has humor in it
- Avoid too many “gruesome details.” If someone has struggled with a specific sin or addiction, they probably don’t need to go into details. A general statement of “I was an alcoholic and I was ruining my life. My addiction caused the breakup of two marriages” gives people all the information they need to understand the problem.
- However, details should be shared about how God helped them turn this around and how their life is different today.
- Talk to them ahead of their scheduled time to see what questions they have and to encourage them.
- Prepare your group ahead of time. Let them know who will be sharing their story and the purpose of having people share these stories.
* About 40% of Scripture is narrative text. Source