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September 7, 2010

Women -- Stand and Speak!

Anyone interested in sharing their stories of small groups from a female perspective?


I am finishing up a new training packet for called "Effective Small Groups for Women." And I figured that I would write up a quick blog post about some of my reactions to the material in that download -- specifically, me talking about the awkwardness and uncertainty that I sometimes feel when I lead a small group that includes women.

But then I thought -- who wants to hear about that?

So, I would like to open up the floor to the women readers of this blog for a moment. Thinking specifically as a woman, how would you rate your experiences with small groups? Have you been pleased, confused, excited, or demoralized? What things have gone right, and where is there still room for progress?

Here's another angle: have you ever been in a group that was led by a man -- and how did it go? Or, have you ever led a small group that included men, and were there any issues that needed to be addressed there?

I guess I would just like to hear some of your stories, since I will never be able to experience a small group from a woman's point of view. So, for those of you that are willing to share, thanks in advance!

posted by Sam O'Neal on September 7, 2010 9:15 AM

Related Tags: Women


Currently we lead a group of couples in our home - due to the nature of my husbands job, he sometimes is not home to lead. I act as the facilitator most meetings, but its been neat to watch our group still lean on my husband for tuogher leadership issues. We consider ourselves to be co-leaders of the group. No one has been bothered by a female facilitating the meeting. Some people in our church might question whether this is biblical, but all of our leaders are under the authority and instruction of our Elders, so we don't see any conflict with women in this role.
I love the community we get from our small group, and its been neat to watch our group members grow spiritually over the last 2 years, and make changes in their walk to be more Christ like. The highlight of our group meeting is sharing a meal together afterwards and having our children there with us.
This side of Heaven there will always be room for progress, but that is the reason we meet in a group. To have authentic community, one where we fellowship together, challenge one another and hold each other accountable.

Currently, I lead a small group comprised of all women. Its been a great experience from my perspective. I don't think that women are, generally speaking, very good to one another. There seems to be a certain competitive nature that bleeds through the different relationships (colleagues, friends, acquaintances, Church family, etc). Through this small group, however, we've been able to come together as friends and without that usual competitive spirit. Maybe its our purpose for being there - we come together to make good friendships with women but, more importantly, to learn more about God and have fellowship.

Previously, I was in a small group made up of both men and women, and which was led by a man. I can't say that we had any great difficulties (ie - miscommunication between men and women, or not understanding one another). It was simply a group more focused on being social than study...and I was looking for study.

I haven't been in a coed group in a long while, but in the past I've frequently found that men in leadership of said groups don't quite know what to do with single women in the group. I'm no shy wallflower, and I think sometimes they've felt somehow threatened. I think male leaders find single women very different somehow from married ones. Maybe the married ones are accustomed to deferring to their husbands.

I lead a small discussion group as a part of a larger women's Bible Study class. I've attended this particular class (different discussion groups each year) for over 15 years; I have been a group leader for only 2 of those.

In answer to your, "Have you been pleased, confused, excited, or demoralized?" - in a word, yes.

I think as long as you are dealing with people, any or all of the above can happen, even when the leader and participants *want* to honor and please God because everyone has different backgrounds, expectations and personalities.

One year, I was having bad issues with my knees, and I was placed in a group that met downstairs (basement). I asked, respectfully, if the group leader thought our group could be moved upstairs. Her response was that maybe I could be moved to another group. I felt hurt and unwelcomed that she was so ready to remove me from her group. Had 2 members of the group not approached me immediately afterward and begged me not to leave, I might have left the group - and the class - permanently. It affected our relationship - and the group - the entire year, even after we eventually were to the main floor (when those 2 other group members - not the group leader - spoke to the class leader!).

I have MANY more positive experiences, but that one stands out in my mind as the way NOT to lead.

I have been in several different kinds of groups over the past two to three years. The first such group was a group of couples. My husband (then fiance) and I joined the group as a way to bond with other couples. He had grown up with some of the men in the group and was eager to continue that. The facilitators were one of the couples and they did a really great job of sharing that role. The group, it seemed, had been together for some time and seemed rooted in each other and were all married. For me personally, I found it hard to bond with the women in the group because it seemed they had this deep relationship and I usually felt out of the loop in some way or another. Plus, I had been divorced before and had kids to that marriage which were older than all the others. Yeah, there's something to be said for making sure you're in the same place in life or with similar interesets. In any event, we attended faithfully to take everything in. In the end, the women did the Bible study and the men just came. I found it difficult to process since the book we were reading was Grace Based Parenting. No matter, we are still friends, but have decided to disband as a group.

I have had small groups also through our women's Bible study at church and have been amazed at how linked my heart can feel to some of the ladies. This is particularly odd, since I often have a hard time relating to other women and opening up much. To be real honest, I find it easier to lead the life group I lead in student ministry sometimes. Getting the 12 or 13 year old to trust and share is so much easier. Of course, they don't have the baggage that we have as adults.

Overall, each of the groups have fed a portion of my heart. I think any group is about finding that right fit of what you want to get out of the group. If you are laid back, find a laid back group. If you are study based, find a study based group. Etc.

Bottom line, small groups are difficult for women. Timing, material, leaders, group dynamics all play a part in how we feel about our group. Leaders are usually untrained, both Biblically and leaderly, which is why so many groups fall apart. I personally do not enjoy mixed groups, mostly because I feel more free to be open and be myself when I'm among just women. I like the small group concept and I'm always hopeful of finding one that I can fit in with and be growing in.

In high school, I co-led a small group with several guys, including my little brother. I was the oldest leader, and the only girl, so it was an interesting dynamic on our leadership team. I am prone to jumping in and taking over, so I had to learn how to step back and make room for these excellent, Godly young men to develop their leadership skills. It was a struggle for me to learn how to balance my roles and inclinations with deferring to them at times, but as I did, I enjoyed watching their confidence and leadership skills grow.

I never felt awkward being a part of that group...there were a few awkward situations with people in the group, both guys and girls occasionally being inappropriately affectionate with members of the opposite sex to the point of discomfort. The leader guys talked to guys in those situations, and I talked with the girls.

I co-led a newlyweds small group with my husband. That was, of course, a mixed gender group, so having a mixed gender (married) leadership team worked well. He focused on building relationships with the guys and I with the girls.

One great idea that came from the other group after we multiplied was the high-five greeting. To minimize the awkwardness of not knowing how to greet other group members (since it was a mixed gender group and they were all married), they made a joke out of it - instead of hugging each other, everyone high fived or fist bumped. Then you avoid the "do I hug or not, and if I do, should I side hug?" questions altogether.

Right now I'm leading a small group just for women, and the sharing is able to go much deeper. There are benefits to having single-gender groups, especially when dealing with private or sensitive topics.

I've been leading women's small groups at my church for over 5 years. I agree with many of the challenges that have been identified already, however, I find women's minstry to be a double edged sword. It can be hurtful to experiance the unprovoked competition from long time members although I now know that many times my group is a training ground for the particpants who wish to model after the leader (however misguided it can be). The other side of the coing is the reward of watching lives changed. It will be difficult to please everyone all the time and leaders make tough decisions sometimes even though they are not popular. I've sought the support of my church and communication is key to effective small group leading.

I have a situation right now where I am a leader of a family group with 3 guys and me because the other girl is not coming out. We just started last Sunday. I am a little uncomfortable but not to the point to bring up an issue about it because the other groups were established. On the other hand, my bf who serves at another church, brought up the issue that one female should not be in a group of all guys and would like me to either have another female in the group or change leaders with my group and that because it is the beginnings that groups can always be modified. So, I spoke with my leader and the leader spoke to the pastor. Response was that there is no guarantee for modification. In the meantime, I was trying to explain to my bf that it is family setting where everyone can be each other's support, but my bf does not see it that way and at the same time, I am trying to do the best with the situation at hand. Am I stubborn for holding the thought that this is just a family group and its no big deal? I don't know what to do.

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