As Community Group leaders, it’s both a privilege and a priority to care for those in our group. In fact, we believe that most basic shepherding needs can be addressed within the context of our groups. As a leader, here are some of the best ways you can provide comfort and care to your group members who are facing difficult situations.
Speak biblically. Psalm 34:18-19 is a powerful reminder that our comfort ultimately comes from God, not from man. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Be sure to offer hope and comfort from Scripture, not simply from your own experiences.
Offer time and attention. Knowing that you are available may be all that someone needs. Attention is often the best gift we can give someone. Giving attention says, “You’re important to me. I care about you.” Intentionally setting aside distractions and offering to make time for someone may open up a great opportunity to provide comfort. Even if you can’t be with someone physically, a phone call, a meaningful text message, or an encouraging email can mean the world to someone struggling.
Communicate acceptance and hope. In other words, smile. Show them that you are for them. Express confidence in them. If they are confessing a sin struggle, don’t act horrified. Instead, say, “Thanks so much for being open and honest with me. I really appreciate your transparency.”
Be an active listener. This is how you earn trust with them. Don’t just pay attention, actually listen to them and make it clear you are doing so. Sit face-to-face with the other person. Lean in. Ask follow-up questions. Show them that you are genuinely hearing them, and that you care.
Maintain confidentiality. This should go without saying, but don’t pass along what they share with you or with the group without a very important reason for doing so. And don’t gossip about what was shared in the group with other group members. In general, the only time you should break confidentiality is when someone is threatening to injure themselves or others.
Uphold appropriate boundaries. Before you get into an emotional counseling situation with someone in your group, be sure to define the parameters. If at all possible, don’t spend alone time with someone of the opposite gender. Include your spouse or your co-leaders in emotional conversations, emails, or messages.
Celebrate their growth. Growth is a process. It takes time for people to walk through pain, hurt, and difficult situations. Walk alongside them through the journey, and celebrate when they grow.
Know your own limits. Don’t burn yourself out on one person’s needs and neglect the rest of your group. Recognize your own span of care, your own level of ability, and refer them to help when necessary. Contact our Discipleship Pastor if you need help thinking through this.
Sharing life with people in your group means you’ll spend time comforting hurting people.
Don’t forget what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”