Last time we evaluated where our groups are along 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 things you could be doing for in your Lifegroups to help them move along the change continuum.
Pattern 2: Changing (Steps for Your Group)
So your group wants to change? Or maybe they don’t but you want them to change. Either way God wants them to change and grow, and that is what really matters. If God wants them to grow and become more Christ like then God will make sure it will get done. However this does not mean we sit back lazily and expect God to make us grow. God does the growing in our lives but he calls us to be faithful to that by opening ourselves up to being changed by him.
Lets Make it Grow!
Before we take a look at steps we can take to help our groups move along the various phases of the “change” pattern we need to get one thing VERY clear. There is nothing you can do to make yourself grow. Growth in Christ-likeness is an act (a miracle) of the Holy Spirit. A while ago I had a weird dream about Christian growth. I’m going to throw it out there and hopefully you catch point.
I was out on a huge grass covered field that stretched out as far as the eye could see. And there was a small sapling in the middle of the field. I had a pail and I was watering the tree. As I was watering the tree I was getting frustrated because the stupid sapling wasn’t becoming a tree. And then some guy walks up to me and says: “you can’t make it grow on your own.” And I replied “but this is how you make it grow.” Then I kept watering the tree but once again the guy said “you can’t make it grow on your own.” A little frustrated I told him, “no this is how you make it grow.” I knew in my mind that you make a tree grow by watering it. Thus if I was watering the tree it would grow. And for a third time the guy said “You can’t make it grow on your own.” By now I was pissed off and frustrated so I told the guy “No this is how you make it grow!” Then I woke up.
When I had this dream it was very personal to what I was experiencing in my life and in ministry, however we can extract a truth from it that applies to all Lifegroups and all Christians as they grow. We can know “how to make things grow.” We can know all the right spiritual disciplines or the complexities behind human psychology and human spiritual development, but ultimately its God who creates growth. Without God, growth does not happen. Reading all the right books, spending hours upon hours praying or fasting will not accomplish anything unless God works in you to grow. I’m not saying don’t do those things. After all, we water plants but the growth in the plant is not dependent on us. As Paul says to the Corinthians in his 1st letter: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
So having said that lets move on to how we can be faithful in “watering” and “planting” the seeds of change.
Phase 1 – Learn
- Learn Together: Duh… Here is what I mean though. Pick something to learn about that will get everyone in the group excited. I know we have a set curriculum for our Lifegroups, but there are always things you can add on to help and to encourage your members to grow through learning. For example last quarter Stacey Sturznacker and I added weekly bible reading to our group. Each week we would all read one book of the bible (an epistle) and then we would get together and share what we learned. We chose to do this because it was on everybody’s heart to be in God’s word more consistently. So by choosing something that people were already excited about we were able to learn together.
- Memorize Scripture: This is impossible for me…. But maybe its really easy for you. If any of you did Elevate (our summer discipleship program) you know how beneficial memorizing scripture can be. If you began to memorize scripture your together your group would become much better at speaking truth into one another. Have them memorize scripture and the watch how God will end up using those scriptures in the group!
- Pray Together: At its most basic, prayer is conversation with God. Talking and listening. So what could be better for our growth in Christ than talking to God himself? Here are three quick tips to prayer in groups. Keep it small. You can break of into smaller groups or you can only have a few people pray during prayer times. Either way you don’t want a million people praying. That will take all night. (Unless of course the Spirit prompts your group to spend the night praying instead.) Give it Time. Make sure everyone has enough time to share prayer requests. This means that you will have to keep the clock in mind when leading the discussion but it also means that you will need to keep some loquacious people in check. Don’t let someone dominate this prayer time each week! Guide it well. Cast vision for this time of prayer. Emphasize that God loves to hear our prayers and he desires to answer them for his glory. Emphasize why we pray and how our prayers are effective.
Phase 2 – Growing
- Discuss: Discussion is the crux of our Lifegroups. We center our Lifegroups around the Word because this is where we encounter Christ. Do what you can to keep the discussion flowing. If someone is dominating, help others chime in. If someone is intimidated to share then make sure the group encourages the fact that their opinions are important and valuable. In keeping the discussion flowing make sure you kill tangents. Kill them before they kill your Lifegroup. On another note, allow awkward silences. Silence is not necessarily bad. It might just mean that people are busy thinking. And who knows maybe someone who feels awkward jumping in during the middle of a heated conversation will feel a bit more comfortable sharing during these silences.
- Accountability: A group should feel free to open up and share what is going on in their lives. But first you need to make sure that you stress the importance of confidentiality in Lifegroups. As you stress confidentiality, you will build trust. As you build trust, people in the group will have the confidence that people in the group have eachother’s best interest in mind and are not interested in gossiping. So once trust is build, and the “relational bridge” has a strong foundation. Incorporate a time into your group where people share with one or two individuals (usually of the same gender) the things that God is working on them to grow. We have build this time into our Lifegroups, but you can mix it up and do it in different ways each week. Or else it can easily become a sin pity party. We want to avoid sin pity parties! We want to avoid them because we know that our sins are covered and paid for by the blood of Jesus. Because they are covered we don’t need to live in fear, remorse, condemnation or guilt. We are free to confess sin and expect growth.
Phase 3 – Belong
- Accountability Outside of the Group: One thing that we constantly repeat is that our Lifegroups aren’t meant to be accountability groups, nevertheless our Lifegroups can help us stay accountable. The primary way that we do this is through accountability outside of the group. One of the groups I coached last quarter instituted a system in which each member had another member that they kept accountable and that they prayed for throughout the week. By doing this the group freed up time to spend on discussion, prayer, and worship instead of accountability. So the situation was a win-win. The group had more time to devote to “Lifegroup” activities and everybody received more individualized accountability than would have been offered in the group alone.
- Service:I am firmly believe that the best way to grow is by serving. When you serve you get stretched and put out of your comfort zone. When you serve you often have to learn to rely more on the Spirit and less on yourself. (Of course you could try to do things on your own… good luck with that.) So if you can get your Lifegroup to serve together you will end up seeing growth in the group itself and in the individuals doing the serving.
Hopefully these tips helped! After all it’s our heart that God would create growth in our Lifegroups. I am confident that as we grow deeper in community and as we continue to spur one another towards remembering our identity in Christ we will see growth! And hopefully as you grow closer together and growth happens then the non-Christians in your lives will see the power that God has to change people. As always I’m praying for you, your groups, and the non-Christians around you!