Simple Smallgroups (pt. 7): Pattern 2 – Changing in Your Own Group

Last time we started the “Changing” pattern. Today we continue this mini-series on spiritual growth in Lifegroups. In this blog we will take a look at some of the various phases that groups find themselves in during this phase.

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Pattern 2: Changing (Your Group)

 Change… we all aim to change. But stuff so often gets in our way! We might desire to change our health habits but end up getting a Venti Salted Caramel Mocha Latte from Starbucks every day (As I write I am drinking a Venti Salted Caramel Mocha Latte, don’t worry though its non-fat!) Or maybe we decide to change our workout habits, but instead of getting up early to work out before work we end up hitting the snooze button 1 or 2 or 6 times. So what is our problem? Our problem is that change is hard (that’s why I prefer bills to change! Haha I crack myself up!) Anyway change, especially spiritual change is hard, super hard. One of the major (actually it is the major) obstacle to lasting change is a lack of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. Another major obstacle to change is a lack of understanding our identity in Christ through the gospel. Lifegroups help us address both of these obstacles. In Lifegroups we give the Holy Spirit free range to help us grow more Christ-like. In Lifegroup we come alongside one another and remind ourselves about our identity in Christ. But there is another obstacle to change. A lack of true community…..

Change or Die

In his book Change or Die journalist Alan Deutschman did some research into how people change. One thing that he found consistently in all people and groups that changed was community. “When people connected with a community that helped them, change was possible. Without community people rarely changed, and when they did, it didn’t last.” By using this book, Bill Search points out that community, especially communities of believers are a major factor in our growth and change process. If its true that community helps us change and grow, how much more will a Christ centered and Spirit led community help us grow?!?!

The Change Continuum

Bill Search likes continuums and I do too. So I think that Bill is right in saying that “just like the relational pattern of connecting, the growth pattern of change is a continuum.” When thinking about the change continuum we must keep two things in mind. First, in defining change we must keep in mind that change does not equal becoming perfect. That is a standard that none of us can attain, nevertheless we remain hopeful that God will one day make us perfect. We remain hopeful that God wants to draw us closer and closer to his son and also that God will make us more and more Christ-like in our spiritual journey. Second, when talking about change we need to know that some people will grow slow and stead, while others will shoot up like weeds. Your Lifegroup will contain both types of people. So you need to be mindful of that. These phases along the change continuum is meant to address the group as a whole, not necessarily individuals.

Phase 1 – Learn

Last time we talked about the notion that growing in knowledge does not equal growing spiritually. However growing in knowledge is a huge part in our process of change. This is a very important stage, especially for people who are new. When you are new, everything you learn can be exciting and awe inspiring. This phase will have people learning new things all the time. They will read the bible and find cool things. They might point out how cool it is that The Lord’s Supper is so similar to Passover or that Jesus was prophesied about in the Old Testament. And as they learn these cool new things they will want to discuss them in Lifegroup. However your job as a Lifegroup leader is to help shift the focus to the question “why does this matter?” (not in a mean and demeaning way) but in a “what does this mean to you?” way. Ask them how this impacts their lives and their view of who God is. Use their eagerness to learn in order to foster spiritual transformation.

How can you tell that you are in this phase? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is most of your group time spent during the “Word” portion of the night?
  • Do most of your members enjoy the “Word” part of the night over the other parts?

Phase 2 – Grow

The growing phase is visible when the emphasis shifts from learning truths to applying them. This group will be more concerned about applying what God is showing them than merely learning more things. A group in this phase helps each person grow by challenging and encouraging one another to apply truth and they build that person up when they see that person living out the truths they are learning. For example someone in your group has been sharing that they are beginning to see the theme of patience running through the Bible. If you are in this stage you will ask the person: Who do you need to be patient with in your circle of influence? Is it your roommates? Your parents? Your girlfriend? When they come back and share the next week and they say that they failed at being patient, encourage them! If they say they were successful celebrate the fact that God is transforming them!

How can you tell that you are in this phase? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your group members openly discuss areas in which they need to personally grow?
  • Do people in your group share testimonies of the things God is doing in their lives?
  • Do they ask to be held accountable for their actions?
  • Do they confess their sins to one another?

Phase 3 – Transform

We can hope for and expect transformation to happen now through the power of the Holy Spirit. Although there are some sins that we seem to be captive to, the truth is that Jesus has defeated sin and has set us free. We just need to allow his reign to take over these parts of our lives. I want you to stop for a minute and think… in the last few months where have you been transformed? How has Christ been growing you? Ask yourself the question: “Who am I becoming in Christ?” These are the same questions you need to be asking your group if they are in this stage. Always remember though that in this stage you want to build up, not tear down. Because it is love and kindness that lead to repentance and growth not condemnation.

How can you tell that you are in this phase? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do group members point to areas where they feel they have experienced victory?
  • Can the group affirm one another in the areas of change they are seeing?
  • Do group members discuss what they are doing in order to grow in a certain area?

Evaluating Your Group

Next time we will be taking a look at how we can move up on the continuum of changing phases. But for now I leave you with a couple of questions and some food for thought. First go ahead and Read Colossians 3:1-17. How does this passage image impact your understanding about growth for your Lifegroup? Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the basis for our change?
  2. What are we to put to death?
  3. What are we supposed to put on?
  4. How is your Lifegroup doing in these areas (v. 12-17)
  5. Do the members of your Lifegroup understand the point or the goal of change?

I hope that these questions help you think through some key issues in our pattern of changing, and that you are led to pray for God to show up in your group to create the change He wants to see. I know I’m praying that for my own group and I’m praying that for yours as well.

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