This is an excerpt from an article by Jon Noto, who is a Community Life Pastor and licensed clinical counselor at Willow Creek Community Church's North Shore campus. To read the full article, click here.
The elements of a person’s story can help you uncover important details about the people in your group.
It takes more than listening well and asking good questions to make a great small-group leader. Great small-group leaders seek to understand their group members. They want to know what makes each person tick. They are fully aware that discipleship requires a deeper level of connection than average relationships. In discipleship relationships, we need more than the CliffsNotes on our group members — we need a deep understanding of who they are. We must think of every person in our group as people with full stories, and we can approach getting to know them like getting to know a good book.
Just like a story, each of us is a mix of important factors. They interact to give depth and development to our lives. If you're like me, you learned the five elements of a story in middle school: setting, characters, plot, conflict, and theme. These are fantastic lenses through which we can understand the members of our group.
Think through the following five story elements for each person in your group and consider: What can I learn about him or her? How can I better lead them and serve him or her?
Where has this person lived?
Do you fully understand the pasts of your group members? Do you know where they come from, their heritage, and their family life growing up? These are important factors in understanding them today.
Who has influenced this person's life? Who matters to him or her?
Do you have a sense of the people who played major roles in your group members' lives? As the old adage says, "A person is known by the company he (or she!) keeps."
What main events have occurred that have shaped this person? What are the major high points and low points of his or her life?
Do you know your group members' peaks and valleys? Do they know yours?
What major problems has this person encountered? What big challenges is he or she facing right now?
What major conflicts have your group members dealt with? What are they currently dealing with?
What major lessons or principles has this person lived by or discovered?
What is the one lesson God keeps reminding you of?
What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
What one value do you want to pass on to your children?
If you could finish one thing by the end of your life, what would it be?