How To Break Out

fish-out-of-water

Last week my son came downstairs and proudly announced that he just caught a fish! Literally, somehow he wrangled a fish from his fish tank. Before asking “How did you do that?” my wife knew the most important question to ask was, “Where is the fish right now?” only hoping this poor fish wasn’t still entangled in the little green net, or worse… flopping somewhere on the floor.

Like kids, fish don’t come with instructions. We just bought four fish the day before. It’s been less than 24 hours and already “Whitey” has been scooped up and examined by our five year old. Welcome to our house. As a dad, I’m actually a little proud that my son caught this fish all by himself… but let’s just keep that between you and me. Perhaps I am partly to blame because the only instructions I gave were about feeding the fish. I guess I totally missed the part about leaving them in the water. In case you are curious, Whitey is happily swimming back in the tank and the little green net is now hidden—and the return policy just expired so I’m stuck with Whitey from here on.

For many people the most intimidating thing about joining a small group is break out. Think back to the first time you attended your small group. Not only did you knock on a stranger’s door, but you went in and sat down in their living room. By the way, who are these people? What’s going to happen? What’s my escape plan? At some point halfway through the night the room divided and you found yourself sitting with an even smaller group of men or women… still strangers. If you are married, you just lost the security of your spouse and now you are alone. Suddenly the couch begins to feel like a hot seat. Thoughts are racing through your mind. Can I trust these people? Will I be judged? Will the pastors or elders find out about my “issues”? What will these people think of me? Am I supposed to share my deepest and darkest secrets? How did I get here in the first place? What can I say that won’t get me into any trouble so we can move onto the next person?  I’m not sure I signed up for this!

Here are three ways to prepare for break out so you don’t feel like a fish out of water:

1. Come prepared

The best way to prepare for breakout is to come prepared. That’s profound. I’ve observed a default answer wired into most us when asked the question “How are you doing?” or “How was your week?” Most men typically defer to their week and talk about their challenges at work. Most women usually jump straight to their family and talk about certain aspects of their home. While I think there is biblical evidence for why we respond in one of these two ways (the curse on man and woman in Genesis 3), I think the heart of the question is more concerned about your walk with God.

So let me help you answer this question. Rather than talking about work or family, tell your small group how God is working in your life. Share what you are learning from Scripture. Tell everyone what you are praying for. Admit specific areas you are fighting temptation. Confess your sin. Praise God for ways you are seeing Him reveal Himself and ways you are drawing near to Him. This means if you are a verbal processor who needs to talk things out loud, have this conversation with yourself before small group so you know exactly what to say. This will help you maximize your time in break out.

Here’s a hint: people will follow you. Be the first person to self-disclose and go vertical, because whatever you say will set the direction for the rest of the group.

2. Expect discomfort

Most of life is spent trying to make life more comfortable. But spiritually we live in a warzone. Another helpful way to prepare for break out is to think of this time as a spiritual discipline. Discipline is never comfortable. Sometimes it’s painful. The truth is, all of us like to hide and cover our sin. Confrontation is always awkward. Fortunately, “You are loved” is not just something we say at the end of every service. We strive to foster a culture where you can confess your sins and fears and failures… and you are not judged for it or thought any less of. We work hard to promote a culture where grace is extended and forgiveness is freely offered in our small groups, because nobody has arrived. Like Paul says each one of us is the worst of all sinners. As you share your life with others you will be prayed for. You will be encouraged. And you will discover that you are not alone in your struggle against sin. Be strong and take courage. Expect to feel uncomfortable, knowing this is a spiritual discipline that leads to growing in Christ and bearing much fruit.

3. Follow Up

As a small group leader, nothing encourages me more than hearing someone in my group follow up with someone else. This tells me that my guys are actually listening and that they genuinely care for one another. If you are not taking notes in breakout then you are missing a huge opportunity. In fact, I would go as far as saying you are too self focused in break out. Break out is bigger than you. Notes will help you know what to ask and pray for. Notes will help you communicate with people specifically throughout the week. You can’t possibly remember everything shared by a group of people from week to week. Start taking notes as a means to encourage and sharpen one another throughout the week. All it takes is a simple text, prayer, question, or verse and immediately your entire perspective and day can be altered for God’s glory.

Commit to these three things and you’ll never again feel like a fish out of water in break out.