Leading a Courageous Girls group can be overwhelming at times. Let’s be honest, there will be times when everyone does NOT see eye to eye. Moms may question a monthly topic or daughters might experience tension due to issues flaring up at school or in friendship circles. While CG groups are bound to experience road blocks that attempt to throw us off track, remember that one of the most unique aspects of this group is that you will be traveling a lengthy journey together to grow character that can only be fostered over time and difficulties. It’s not a season-by-season activity where participants are coming and going. But, this reality will also be difficult. After all, many people are not accustomed to sticking anything out for the long haul. Challenges and struggle often tempt us to jump ship to avoid having to wade through the murkiness and discomfort that commitment brings with it. And wouldn’t the Enemy LOVE to de-rail your group and disconnect the relationships that have been cultivated?
As your group settles into a rhythm, take some time to consider these five suggestions that will help you keep the LONG VIEW in mind as you lead your group well:
- NEVER STOP PRAYING. Seek God’s word on every issue and topic that your group discusses and every hiccup that may arise over time. It’s tempting to wait until we get to a point where we have no other options and THEN turn to God’s Word for help, but Courageous Girls turn to His guidance FIRST, trusting that God’s plan is the best plan. Be mindful of how God moves, grows or changes your group over the years. Change is inevitable. In fact, it will likely be a great thing in your CG group because change will often signify growth and maturity. However, as your girls (and moms) grow up and mature, you will need to listen to God’s guidance and prompting for how to stay in tune with the girls and moms as well as how to continue supporting and challenging them in healthy and helpful ways. Remember that CG is only a vehicle and that your group is unique, made up of many individual wirings, backgrounds, and stories. As a result, it’s important to avoid feeling locked into a proscribed outline that may have worked for another group. Though the guidelines, curriculum, and leader resources provide you with relational wisdom, allow God to lead your group and trust the process.
- KEEP THE STAGES OF GROUP FORMATION IN MIND. Every group goes through 4 stages of development; each stage takes a different amount of time for every group. Keeping this in mind, consider what stage your group is currently in and then prepare for the next stage coming up. Be on the lookout for signs that your group is transitioning into the next stage and be ready to nurture the development that will occur.
- STAGE 1 — FORMING. This stage can take place for the entire first year of your CG group. During this stage individuals are getting to know each other, figuring out the schedule and determining expectations. This is an important time to be very clear about the group guidelines (see CG website). Establish healthy boundaries for the group as well as monthly patterns like keeping snacks simple to keep the focus on the relationships and quality time of the gathering. Try to avoid cancelling regardless of who can make a meeting. This will set a tone of commitment and the importance of valuing every member of your group. In fact, sometimes the smaller gatherings are the most profound.
- STAGE 2 — STORMING. During the storming phase, the group can feel “off.” Tensions might seem higher than normal as everyone is still figuring out how to meet the group expectations as well as how their commitment to the CG group will impact their own personal and family lives. During this stage, moms might question their roles within the group or whether they even fit in (these are common doubts and insecurities that rise to the surface with any group that sticks together more than a short time). Time has not yet allowed trust to fully form amongst the group, leaving individuals feeling tentative and unsure. They may still be questioning the cost/benefit of being a part of CG: What are we getting out of this monthly time together? Is it what I was expecting? These aren’t the people I typically do life with. These questions and more can often leave the momentum of the group stagnant for a period of time while trust continues to build and relationships are established. This is a great time to gather the moms together for a “mama treat” or a get together where they can talk without daughters present in order to go deeper together as moms. Do not be afraid to pursue moms outside of the group or to start a book study together. This can build safety and a feeling of being “known,” both of which will help get your group to the next stage of development.
- STAGE 3 — NORMING. Norming is pretty much just what it sounds like — the period of time when a group finally figures out their individual roles/strengths/goals/etc. and can get down to business. With CG groups, this may look like moms remembering to send out the email reminders a week or so before the next gathering (without needing to be reminded) or following up with one another afterwards to make sure everyone is connecting. These little signs are easy to take for granted (after all, they are part of the basic expectations of CG groups), but it takes time for these to become routine habits for new groups. One of the things we’ve noticed is that groups settle into the norming stage faster when more moms are vested in the group as discussion leaders. In other words, the quicker you can get moms to lead monthly gatherings, host in their homes, etc., the faster your group can move from the storming phase into the norming phase. CG founder, Terra Mattson, says that this is one of the essentials to the CG movement. She asks every CG leader to prayerfully assign monthly topics to moms, rather than waiting for moms to sign up. This helps all moms grow in trust, collective ownership, modeling, and intimacy as they contribute. Each mom will feel valued and their daughters will benefit. Giving each person a specific role within the group and ensuring that each member of your “team” feels purposeful will help you build traction to propel you further into the final stage of group development.
- STAGE 4 — PERFORMING. This final stage of group development is the sweet spot for CG groups. You’ll know your group is in the performing stage when things start to feel less like pulling teeth and more like well-oiled machine. You and other moms will have the group rhythm down and will be able to rely on one another regularly. The girls will pick up on the unity between the moms and will feel more comfortable and open themselves. This usually leads to more open sharing during discussions, more risk-taking, and ultimately, more connection – both between the moms, the daughters and the mom/daughter pairs. Don’t assume this phase means it will be smooth sailing, though. Once groups attain this stage of performance, there will still be challenges to work through. You’ll surely hit bumps along the way, especially since CG groups remain together for multiple years, but you will also grow more adept at working through issues that arise so that you can continue functioning well as a group despite individual set backs and personal conflicts. In the end, remember that CG is ultimately for the mom and daughter relationship.
- RESOLVE CONFLICT. Remind mamas in your group that discomfort and conflict is going to occur — it’s a given! In fact, it’s one of the aspects of CG groups that make them so much more than most activities we do with out girls. If we are going to teach our daughters how to be in real, committed relationships with God and others, we must prepare them for the uncomfortable task of moving through conflict well. Here’s a little equation to break it down for your group: Relationships + Conflicts = Growth (so long as the conflict is addressed and reconciled). When the moms are prepared for this and are equipped to lean into one another when conflict arises, the chance of working through it successfully is much higher (See Year 5 on the website for some clear conflict resolution skills).
Talk it out. This is mentioned several times in the leader notes on the CG website, but we can’t over-state this. When an issue arises within your group (either between mamas, daughters or any combination thereof), encourage your moms and girls to go directly to the source of the issue. As the group leader, you may need to do some coaching or advocating to help this happen. At times, you may even need to help navigate a difficult conversation as a neutral mediator. Other times, you may need to personally address an individual in the group whose behavior is impacting others (especially if it’s happening routinely and/or she is not aware of the implications of her behavior). Avoid gossiping and talking about it with others (this only leads to more hurt, confusion, and group break-down).
Finally, make GRACE (and LISTENING) your main focus. It’s very possible that the conflict resulted from miscommunication, different wirings, or unmet expectations, and not from maliciousness or ill-will. By going directly to the source fo the conflict, you can avoid unnecessary escalation and hopefully move toward reconciliation faster. By operating from a position of grace, you’re going to assume the best about someone, not the worst. This is true for all parties involved. Approach with grace AND receive feedback with grace, too. Grace reminds another mom who missed the monthly gathering that it certainly isn’t the end of the world, no matter how long you spent preparing for the lesson. Grace calls us to be honorable and act with integrity even when we may have been wronged in the first place. Grace is the foundation of what we desire to teach our girls because it is the greatest form of love we experience from God; it is wanting our daughters to know deeply that they are loved just as they are. Though maturing is a goal, we cannot mature if we do not experience love. Ultimately, we want to model what we want to pass on to our girls.
- HONOR EVERYONE. Celebration is important. Look for opportunities to honor each person in your CG group individually and encourage everyone to do the same. Can you support a CG friend by showing up to her play (either on your own or as a group) and cheering her on? Perhaps you have a simple but special way to recognize each person’s birthday? Does your group have an annual service project that highlights and supports an individual’s personal struggle or challenge (ie: walking as a team for a local cancer fundraiser in honor of a group member who has battled this disease herself). If not, consider finding something that would elevate that person’s cause to the group level and follow through with it. There are countless ways to honor others. In a culture where “everyone’s a winner” and no one really stands out, it is special to cultivate the uniqueness of the stories represented amongst your group members. Paying tribute to that uniqueness will not only build good will among your group, but will unify you for the long haul.
- USE ALL GIFTS. Everyone has gifts to offer. Your CG group is no exception. In order to really make this group sustainable, it is imperative that you figure out what people’s gifts are and then create “lanes” for them to work within. For those who have the gift of hospitality, lean on them them to host retreats, holiday meals, special activities and other tokens that will remind your group that they are loved and cared for. For those with the gift of prayer, call on them to pray regularly for group and individual needs and to reach out to others in the group during times of grief or loss. There are many more gifts surely represented within your CG group; take inventory of what those are and then capitalize on ways to allow people to work within those areas so it doesn’t feel like extra ‘work’ for anyone. When we operate from our natural gifting, the work is a joy and is much more sustainable than trying to muster up the motivation to do something outside our gifting…especially for the long haul.
Often, a little perspective can really help us see the best direction to guide our groups. There is a misconception that CG groups should end up feeling like a group of BFFs that get together to chat each month. We actually disagree; the more uniqueness and individuality represented within your group (which can sometimes feel like people coming from many different walks of life), the more potential your group has to grow in empathy, vulnerability, confidence, courage and grace.
By: Aimee Eckley