Who can facilitate a support group?
While it certainly would be helpful for the facilitator to be someone who has experienced the same kind of loss or problem, it is not necessary. The requirement according to 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 is that we "comfort those in any trouble (notice that it says 'any' trouble, not just the ones we have experienced) with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." If you know the comfort of God in your life, then you can help others.
God's comfort is what hurting people need most.
You don't have to be able to say "I've been there, done that" but you do have to honestly be able to say "I care." If you know the comfort of God in your life you will be able to reach out with compassion and mercy to those who hurt or struggle even if you do not share a common experience.
If you have the gift of mercy and/or exhortation, God has enabled you to dispense His grace to people in ways that comfort and say "I care."
If the facilitator is someone who has experienced the same hurt or struggle as the group, be sure this person is far enough along in his/her own journey to truly be a help. The facilitator needs to bring to the group a level of mental objectivity, emotional stability, and spiritual perspective that only comes when a person is far enough in the healing process.
What is a facilitator supposed to do?
To have an effective support group, a facilitator must do more than show up and lead the meeting. All of the following tasks need to be accomplished if the group is to flourish:
- notify people of the upcoming meeting: post card, note, phone call, church bulletin, flyer, one-on-one invitation, or other means of advertising like the newspaper and radio if the support group is open to the community
- plan for the meeting: get acquainted time, springboard question or topic, etc.
- conduct the meeting: implement your plan but be flexible
- follow-up: pray for group members, contact absentees, acknowledge by note or phone contact dates of events significant to group members (good to maintain a database or file card system containing vital information)
In addition to the content in this section, the People Helping Ministry Manual will also get you thinking about how much time outside of the support group you, as the facilitator, should make yourself available to group members. The manual also briefly deals with developing a referral list of contacts, especially for emergencies, giving potential categories you might want to include in your referral list.
- What is a support group?
- What makes a support group different from other small groups?
- Who will tend to go to a support group?
- Where should the support group meet?
- What should happen during a support group?
- What are essential elements in a good support group?
- Support Groups as a Shepherding Venue
- Support Groups Resources