One of the biggest challenges in leading a LIFE Group is keeping the group externally focused. An externally focused group intentionally builds bridges into the lives of others, especially non-group members. Externally focused groups travel together toward Christlikeness but always looking outward for others to bring on the journey with them. It’s a challenge to lead a group to be externally focused because the natural tendency for any group is to be internally focused, especially groups a year old or older.
The key is to lead the LIFE Group to be internally healthy, but externally focused. Internally, the group prays and cares for each other, strives to build Christ-honoring relationships and studies and applies the Word together. But they also have their eyes focused outward toward others who aren’t connected in community, passionate about developing new relationships with new people, and inviting them to join the journey.
The leader sets the tone for a group that operates this way. Here are some practical ways a leader can keep a LIFE Group externally focused:
- Fight the natural inertia of inward focus. Regularly remind the group members to make room in their lives for new relationships. Remind them there are people who are disconnected but desperately looking to be connected. Keep it ever before the group that there are people that still need to be reached.
- Recognize the empty chair. Always have at least one empty chair or seat to represent the person who is not present. Draw the attention of the group to that chair, challenging them to prayerfully consider the person who needs to be in it.
- Make invitation an expectation. Inwardly focused groups don’t invite their friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Stress the importance of inviting people, expect them to do it and make it a cultural norm of the group. It’s typically true that the LIFE Group leader must model this behavior before it becomes adopted by group members.
- Consider what God is doing outside the walls. The LIFE Group leader must be sensitive to the work God is doing outside the walls of the classroom or living room, and he/she engages the group to partner with God in that work. Groups that serve together outside the walls have externally focused hearts and minds and God blesses the work of their hands.