I've been reading Making Small Groups Work by Cloud and Townsend.
My own church has no small group communities at this time, although it did sponsor about two years of a Renewal program in 1999-2000. My husband and I participated in a Renewal group, and it was a time of grace and growth. Unfortunately, one of the members was an aggressive overtalker who was very bitter and our group eventually stopped meeting. So did the others.
I believe that small groups can be very powerful agents for healing. I've experienced that myself, and seen it many times. Making Small Groups Work is helping me understand more about how this works.
Here are a few thoughts that Cloud and Townsend have about the process of emotional healing:
Good groups confirm the wounded person's emotional reality. That is, they let her know her experience matters, her feelings are real, and those feelings and experiences are important to them. Often, the extent to which people heal from injuries is the extent to which others validate the injuries. The group may have to persevere to overcome to message of invalidation the member received from others. Such messages made the sufferer nullify her own experience. These things didn't happen to you, or they weren't as bad as you think. But as the group provides support, the person becomes more confident that her injury is real and matters to others.And in a section on "Strength to Take Ownership", they write:
Whether the injuries are other-inflicted, self-inflicted, or the result of living in an imperfect world, each person needs to take responsibility for his part in resolving things. The healthy group, while being full of grace, comfort, and validation, also helps the member to avoid a helpless victim stance, blaming others and remaining passive. Instead the group helps him shoulder the burdens he should. The group may say to the member, "We are on your side, and we agree that this is a bad situation. Now we want to help you do whatever it takes to be restored from this and be healed inside so that you are not prey to these situations ever again.