If you follow XXXchurch, read my book, or engage with any of the resources Live Free Ministries offers, one thing should be clear… We fiercely believe in the need for connection. 

In fact, our entire ministry revolves around the assumption that healthy relationships are essential to recovery. And that’s not a belief that we invented or pulled out of thin air. It is something that both the Bible and psychology support. Consequently, that is the reason all our resources, including X3watch, have a relational element to them.

Beyond our values and mission, we witness the most profound transformations occur among those who become part of our support groups and communities.

Because connection is that important.

That said, I can’t honestly tell you everyone who signs up for one of our communities or small groups experiences positive change. I wish I could, but that would be dishonest. In fact, I’ve gotten comments from those who have left our Small Groups Online program along the lines of, “I don’t think it’s for me” or “your groups don’t offer what I need.”

And while I can’t guarantee that this applies to every situation, I can confidently say that the reason support groups often disappoint people is because they don’t understand the true benefits of, or the mindset required for these groups. Here are 3 common misunderstandings that people have when participating in a support group or joining a supportive community.

Misunderstanding #1: Support groups are for accountability.

There is no denying that support groups offer the opportunity for accountability. After all, when you are part of a group of individuals who share the same goals, a natural understanding is established where each person is expected to hold the others accountable.

However, accountability is not the primary value that support groups provide. Rather it’s more of an ancillary benefit. That’s why our Small Groups Online program prioritizes fostering relationships and building camaraderie within our groups, above all else. We believe that the connections formed are far more important than curriculum, teaching, or confession.

People who show up week after week just for the purposes of telling on themselves when they slipped up will most likely be doing that for a long time without any signs of progress. 

The reason for that is simple: growth requires far more than just admitting where you fell short. And, psychologically speaking, the true value of a support group is found in the unconditional acceptance you experience from the group when you humbly acknowledge your failures, more so than the act of repentance itself.

Yes, look to your group as a source of accountability. But realize your group is there more so for the benefit of connection and learning than just serving as a confessional grounds. 

Misunderstanding #2: Support groups are there for me to share.

Like accountability, a support group is clearly a place meant to offer you a safe space to share, confess, and even vent. If no one shared in a group about their week or struggles, then it wouldn’t be much of a group. After all, how can you experience unconditional acceptance if you don’t test that acceptance with your vulnerability?

However, what I often see is men and women checking in with their group to share their latest life experiences and then mentally (or physically) check out afterward. As if the only purpose of their involvement is to dump on everyone else but not receive anything in return. Like I said earlier, one of the other primary benefits of participating in a small group is the opportunity for learning that happens. 

Think about it. 

You are in a group with others facing similar challenges, frustrations, and on some level life experiences. That means you have the opportunity to learn from them. It is important to consider both their successes in overcoming challenges and to observe carefully to avoid repeating prior mistakes when they faced difficulties.

We learn from personal experience.
We learn from other people.

And support groups offer you the environment to do both.

Misunderstanding #3: I have nothing to offer my support group.

Unfortunately this one is far too common but not often spoken. The reality is that when one is experiencing constant slip-ups and showing up each week with the same “miserable” report, it can start feeling as if they are simply a drain on the group. And that is understandable.

But it is not true.

Support groups offer you connection with others. And guess what… they offer others connection with you. I can’t understate the value of empathetic and supportive allies when traveling the recovery path. Notice I said empathetic and supportive, not perfect.

Sure, if you’ve been attending a support group for a while but still feel like you’re not making any progress, it’s important to take some time for self-reflection and self-examination. You may need to look into counseling or additional resources to help your efforts. 

But the one thing you don’t need to worry about is your value to the group.

This is in part why rule #1 of a support group is “just show up.”

Simply showing up is enough. Your availability, transparency, and support is of extreme importance to the others in your group. You don’t need to have it all together to be a valuable ally in one’s recovery. Because at the end of the day, recovery is not just about what you can get from others; it’s also about what you can offer someone else.

And that starts with the real and authentic you.

The truth is this. Support groups are not the only resource you will need in a solid recovery plan. But they are vital because of the emotional benefits they offer. The unconditional connection and opportunity for learning they provide are invaluable and not something you can adequately replicate by yourself or even in a therapist’s office.

People need people. That is a fact, not just for recovery but for life. Lean into a support system for the right reasons, and you will see benefits. But, without a proper understanding of the reasons behind your participation in a support group, you are bound to encounter ongoing frustration and disappointment.

And, if after reading this post you decide to give support groups another chance, sign up for one of our groups at Small Groups Online and get your first month for just $1. Simply use the coupon code DOLLAR34 when checking out.