Gathering in small groups of women gives us the opportunity to share our lives with others. Whether we’re gathering for Bible study or enjoying a shared interest such as knitting, hiking, or cooking, we can learn about ourselves and learn from others.

Doing life with others requires authenticity, and authenticity requires vulnerability, which isn’t always easy for us. How can we create small groups where women feel safe enough to allow themselves to be vulnerable and open up their lives to other women? It’s not easy, but the following are essentials for creating openness in your small groups.

Confidentiality. Women must know they’re safe within the group. At the beginning of each new group, be sure to verbally express the importance of confidentiality. Women aren’t to share what’s said in the group with people outside the group.

Sharing is at your own comfort level. Some women share more than others, and that’s okay! Let women know they’ll be allowed to share as deeply or as little as they want.

Accountability is visible. When there’s an issue with confidentiality or women judging each other, be sure the leader addresses it appropriately. When women see a leader who’s willing to handle a situation with humility and respect, they’ll feel more comfortable.

Be consistent. Talk with your small group leaders. Train them to provide a foundation on which all women can plant their feet on solid ground and grow to be comfortable enough to be authentic and share life with others.