Recently, I heard this statement:
Anytime someone enters into an environment, they assess that environment -- and people will participate up to that level.
This statement infers that the tone of the environment is often set by the leader, and therefore the leader can be the limiting factor in how people participate.
Here is what I have discovered in years of leading small groups. God seems to always send people into my group who are higher energy than I am, but they usually don’t engage at that level unless they see me raise my level of engagement.
- they don’t joke and have fun unless they see me lighten up.
- they don’t get passionate about a service project unless they see me get some passion for a project or encourage other’s passion.
- they don’t care for a need unless they see me care for a need or cheer on someone who does.
- they don’t enter work to connect outside the group unless they see me connecting with people outside the group.
We must look at our small group with a mindset; this is the environment we want to create, and we have to participate at a higher level than we are naturally comfortable with so people can respond or participate up to that level. Because they will not participate at a higher level.
We are not challenging you to be someone you are not -- just to be others-focused. You see, when I am others-focused, I think more about what the group needs than what I need. When I am others-focused, I am willing to move outside my comfort zone because of what it can do for others.
One way you can do this is to celebrate the engagement level of others. This communicates that people who are participating at a high level -- whether it be a service project, in conversation, in caring for others, in being personally vulnerable to the group -- that kind of participation is celebrated and welcomed and safe and “normal” as part of this environment.
So, in your group, what area can you raise your level of engagement/participation? Who in your group is pushing the level of comfort (in a good way) and how can you celebrate or encourage them?