Posts Tagged group

Casting Vision for Your LIFE Group

by Susan Hill

All of us who lead LIFE Groups want our groups to be healthy, growing, and thriving in a way that glorifies God and builds His kingdom. Not a single one of us wants to stay stuck in the status quo. We want to flourish. But how often are we prayerfully seeking God’s direction for our group? Are we taking the time to envision what our group could look like in a year?
In his book, Visioneering, Andy Stanley says, “Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. Vision is a preferred future. A destination. Vision always stands in contrast to the world as it is. Vision demands change. It implies movement. But a vision requires someone to champion the cause.”
When I launched a group a few years ago, my initial vision was two-fold:

  1. I wanted the group to serve as a place where members would come together to study the Scriptures in a way that deepened their love for Christ.
  2. I wanted the group to provide an environment where group members could build authentic relationships with one another. God has been faithful to manifest this and more in our LIFE Group and I am thankful. But as I contemplate the future, I realize my vision for this group needs expanding.

For instance, in the coming months I long to see first-time guests coming through our door every week. I envision non-believers making decisions to follow Christ. My hope is to see current members step into leadership roles and launch their own groups. I want to see long-time group members continue to grow in their relationships with Christ and disciple new believers. My initial vision for the group hasn’t changed but it has expanded and I am now prayerfully seeking God for greater things in this group.
Maybe you’ve already got a solid vision for your LIFE Group and, if you do, that’s great. If not, I encourage you to spend some time thinking through what you want your group to look like in the coming months.  Keep in mind that vision has to be communicated to be effective. In fact, it’s likely you will need to reiterate the vision several times. Sometimes members are absent and it’s possible not everyone will be present the first time you communicate your vision to the group.  Others will need to hear it several times before they take it seriously.
As leaders, we have the privilege of influencing people to grow in their relationships with Christ. Let’s prayerfully seek God’s will for the people He allows us to lead and continue to expand our vision for what is possible.

Avoiding the Closed Group Syndrome

by Jay Fennell

Every small group or Sunday school class drifts toward becoming inwardly focused. Here’s how it plays out: a new group forms and enjoys early days of developing new relationships and connections with people. Everyone is equally eager to develop these relationships. The group grows numerically as new faces are added. Excitement builds as the group grows and reaches new people who were formerly unconnected.  This momentum lasts for a time but, after a while, it slows as the group leans more and more toward becoming closed in nature or less receptive to newcomers.
This trend toward becoming closed isn’t intentional, it’s accidental. It’s natural inertia. Relationships become solidified among group members as you do life together over time. Mountain and valley experiences of life are shared and bonds form as people walk side by side on life’s journey. And all of this is good. It’s what you must develop in a small group community. But the challenge is to not become so closed, so inwardly focused, that you forsake the importance of creating room for newcomers who desire to experience the same community you enjoy.
So how do you do that? How do you fight against the natural tilt toward an inwardly focused group? Consider these ideas:

  • Expect Guests. It sounds silly but it’s true. Inwardly focused groups do not expect guests and, therefore, do not have a plan to receive them, acknowledge them, and help them feel accepted.  When you don’t expect guests, you neglect guests.
  • Wear Nametags. You may know everyone’s name in your group, but guests don’t know any names typically. Wearing nametags sends the message that you expect someone who doesn’t know your name to be present.
  • Avoid Cliques. It’s so much easier to talk with people you know and already have a developed relationship with. But fight the urge to segregate yourself from others, especially guests, and take initiative to connect with newcomers. The worst possible scenario is for longtime members to chat with each other while not including guests.
  • Sit in Circles. Group size obviously dictates set up but, whenever possible, arrange your chairs in a circle. Circles promote group growth, unity and combined synergy.  This sends a positive message to guests who desire to belong and grow. Life change happens best in circles, not rows.