It’s a question I am asked frequently, “How do I start a support group?” I cringe when I hear it.
Maybe it’s because of conversations like these. A mom recently spoke to me about starting a group at her church for mothers of kids with disabilities. She told me that when she shared the notion of a support group with some other seasoned caregiving moms, they recoiled. It sounded depressing to them.
While it can be helpful to connect with others in similar circumstances, a dark tone is detrimental. The words “support group” can take on a connotation of being a victim or of one who is in recovery. Without being explicit, it evokes a mood of despair and pity. It also implies being in need of repair.
I have my fair share of challenges, but I wouldn’t say that my life needs to be repaired. My children are a joy to me. They are each unique in every aspect, a blessing to our family, not a burden.
Instead, the organization I lead chooses to use words that empower. After all, everyone has something to offer, no matter what their experience or ability level! To describe our gatherings of caregivers we use the term “mentor group” or “Side-by-Side Parent Mentor Small Group.” Other valued colleagues use terms like “connect groups.” Whatever the terminology used, it should be a phrase of action. God gives us the resources and ability to positively respond to our circumstances. Our gatherings should reflect that.
Where is the focus?
When I said “Yes” to God’s prompting calling me to ministry, I knew that He wanted our focus upward, not hopelessly on our circumstances. Often times, support groups can end up being a gripe session or pity party. Those types of meetings have not proved to be constructive for parents like us.
This is not to say that we don’t ever share our challenges. We cannot overcome our difficulties with finding resources, mending relationships, or making critical decisions without discussing them with others. That is the value of mutual mentorship. Godly people who eventually become friends share their experience and wisdom, lifting us up in the process.
At the same time, we have always had the practice of having a guest speaker or using a book to create positive focus. This gives a beneficial starting point to stimulate conversation and prayer. Scripture should always be a part of the discussion because it can’t help but elevate the soul. The Bible is the only book that reads you as you read it. God’s word is active and living. It changes the lives of those we serve as they gather, dig into it together, and chat. Strength is gained to live above circumstances, making those who are participating eloquent invitations to come see the work of God. This is far beyond support.
Reconsider your verbiage
In a culture where we are still encouraging the typical world to use people first language, we need to remember that words matter. Altering your language to activate others and lift their mindset in a favorable direction is a simple step with huge impact. Consider joining me in banishing that phrase.
*To learn more about Side-By-Side Parent Mentor Small Groups e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest posts by Barb Dittrich (see all)
- Why I’ve Banished The Term “Support Group” - November 15, 2016
- MARGINALIZED IN MINISTRY: Why Including the Disabled is a Call for All - October 4, 2016
- 1 Key to Breaking the Glass Wall of Isolation - April 11, 2016