lifegroups

How to Empower People in Your Group

EricFreemon
EricFreemon

Eric Freeman, the author of this post, is a resident at Midtown Fellowship. To find out more about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

At a recent LifeGroup leader meeting, we had a “choose your own adventure” time where we listened to insight from different pastors about things we might be dealing with in our groups and how to handle them. We received a ton of great feedback from these short and practical talks, and in case you missed any, we recorded them and will release them as a resource for you and your group! The first is about how to empower people in your group.

Leading a LifeGroup can sometimes feel like you are swimming alone in a sea of expectations, being battered by the waves of responsibility and duty to your group. There are so many details and intricacies to leading a LifeGroup that it can feel overwhelming when doing it all on your own.

In Exodus 18:13-23, Moses was confronted by his father-in-law for putting all the pressure to lead in every aspect on himself and almost burning himself out. There were people all around him with gifts from the Lord who, if equipped based on what they have been blessed with, could help share in the responsibility and accomplish the twofold goal of personal and community growth.

As leaders it is our goal to push those in our groups to grow and take ownership while the group as a whole grows. As Kent (one of our pastors) said,

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something."

It is our job to get to know the folks in our group and learn what they’re good at so we can give them responsibilities that will help both them and our groups grow. Give it a listen to learn how!

HOW TO EMPOWER PEOPLE IN YOUR GROUP

What Makes LifeGroups Special?

adam
adam

Adam Gibson, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors and elders on the vision team along with Allen Tipping. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

Most church small groups and classes will have some similar elements. Things like bible study and prayer are usually central. Hopefully bible application, confession, encouragement, and loving correction will also be included. All of these are elements that we have taught and implemented since we planted our church. I would argue that Scripture explicitly instructs us to incorporate all of them into our lives as believers, and that our growth as Christians will always be stunted without them.

On top of these crucial elements there are some additional ideas that, in my experience, make our vision for LifeGroups distinct. We try to lead our groups to have a goal of cultivating a community that enjoys one another and has a view towards welcoming others into it.

The Hard Work of Enjoying Others

We want our groups to put in the hard work of learning to actually enjoy one another. Some might ask, "why not just let biblical community happen naturally? Why does there need to be a formalized system (like LifeGroups) to make it happen?" While biblical community certainly can form naturally, it's been my experience that often this leads to fairly homogenous groups. We naturally gravitate towards people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and do life like us. If we're not careful, this can mean that we never learn to love people who differ from us at all.

It is very easy to love the idea of biblical community. It is quite another thing to love the real people who are actually around you. Every day our fragmented, individualized society teaches us that if someone is different from me then I cannot meaningfully connect with them. Many American Christians have imported this idea into their view of the church and want to only share life with people they easily get along with.

A More Difficult and More Beautiful Picture

The biblical vision for the church stands in contrast to this however, and calls us to love the unlovely, the weak, the immature, the difficult...because this is how Jesus has loved us in our weakness and immaturity. We are to bear with the failings of the weak, welcome the immature, and love the real people around us, not just love the idea of community. In Christ, we are “family-fied.” We are united by something more powerful than anything that could separate us.

A gospel community should always have a view for enjoying the flawed humans who make it up, all the while welcoming others into it. We think this is the mission of the church. And when, fueled by God's Spirit, these things begin to come together, neighborhoods and cities begin to change.

Because of this, it is our expectation that your LifeGroup will be difficult at times. Learning to love people who are different than you will feel counterintuitive, and that's because it is. After all, we serve a God who came to earth, put on human flesh, and extended grace towards people who hated him, gossiped about him and eventually conspired to kill him. This should be our standard and our inspiration for our efforts to love and pursue those different than us.

Are you new to our church family and ready to join a LifeGroup? Get signed up here.

1000: A Number Worth Celebrating

In the church world, leaders tend to track a lot of numbers. This can be a healthy thing, looking at figures to track health and growth—or it can be an unhealthy obsession where leaders use numerical markers to determine their identity or perceived worth. Our goal has always been to make disciples of Jesus, and not just to draw a crowd. We could bring in circus performers or have a dirt bike jump over a pastor (that’s a real thing) if our only objective was to beat last Sunday’s attendance.  But from the beginning of our ministry, we’ve had a desire to care about the right numbers in the right way.

Our Most Important Number & Why

One of those numbers that we track and care a lot about is the number of people we have in LifeGroups. There are many reasons why we care so much about this number, but here are just a few:

  • Discipleship happens in community. We believe corporate gatherings are an essential part of Christian formation, but we realize that Gatherings alone will not make disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit applies and works the things we learn on Sundays into our lives during the rest of the week as we rub shoulders with one another and practice the “one another” commands from the New Testament.
  • Mission happens through community. The type of community that Jesus creates is so compelling, and we believe the best way for people far from Jesus to truly see the gospel is to experience it by getting a front row seat to a gospel-centered community. We want non-Christians to get to see the gospel lived out in real, messy people and relationships.
  • Care happens in community. Life is really hard and there are so many temptations to get off track, even as believers. There is an incredible correlation between a person’s long-term spiritual health and their connectedness to genuine Christian community. If a person is deeply connected to community, they can persevere through anything. If a person is not connected to Christian community, it is typically only a matter of time before they go off the rails somehow. As pastors we have seen this happen too many times to mention. We were not created to follow Jesus alone.
  • We believe it’s an indicator of health. If only 10% of people that come on Sundays are walking in community, that’s a major red flag. For the past year or so, we’ve actually had more people in LifeGroups than we’ve averaged on Sundays, and we love that. That's an indicator that many people are being brought into LifeGroups through relationships and not just sign-ups, and means that much of our church are living missional lives throughout the week.

A Crazy Goal & a Crazy Celebration

A couple of years ago, we set quite a lofty goal at the time—we prayed that we would get 1000 people into LifeGroups. What could happen, we thought, if we could get that many people plugged into healthy, vibrant, and outward-focused community? How would that change our city? How amazing would it be to have 1000 missionaries on the ground here, seeking to help those around them take next steps towards Jesus?

For years, we prayed and we worked towards this. First, back in 2012, we hit the 500 mark, and we celebrated it in ridiculous Midtown fashion (we had a cake made with our LifeGroups pastor's face on it). Because of our population and high rate of transition (mostly from being in a college town), growing that number is actually not easy (we lose about a quarter of our church every year, so we have to grow by 25% just to stay even).

Then we prayed and worked some more, and during the spring of 2014 we went through Grassroots Kingdom, a formative series for the health of our LifeGroups and our mission as a church. That helped launch us into this fall, where we have hit our goal of having 1000 people in LifeGroups!

Why We Celebrate this Number

We are very excited about hitting this goal, as it’s been something we’ve been praying about for a long time. Jesus has been so faithful to us, and He has used our meager efforts to grow His church here in Columbia in really beautiful ways. We are so proud of our church family and the way you guys are owning the mission of God in everyday life. Namely:

  • You’re walking in community with each other.
  • You’re loving one another, serving one another, and walking in the light with one another.
  • You’re strategically building relationship with those far from Jesus and inviting them into your community.
  • You’re carrying each other’s burdens and watching out for one another’s blind spots.

What's Next?

Jesus is building His church here in Columbia, and it’s amazing to be a part of. He’s raising up disciples and sending out missionaries. And He’s not finished—not by a long shot.

There are many more who are far from Him, many more who need to be discipled, many more who need to see the gospel in community, and many more who will be raised up to be sent out as missionaries.

That’s going to happen primarily through people getting plugged into healthy, Jesus-centered communities—so let’s get after it.

Study Galatians With Your LifeGroup

As always, the best way to get the most out of any sermon series is to study it and discuss it with your LifeGroup. So throughout the series, we'll post Discussion Guides to help you and your LifeGroup talk through the series. Ready to learn about Galatians with your LifeGroup?

[button label="Download Weeks 1-4 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Gal_Discussion_1s.pdf" shape="default"]

[button label="Download Weeks 5-8 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/GAL_5-8_2.pdf" shape="default"]

[button label="Download Weeks 9-10 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Galatians_DiscussionGuide_9_10.pdf" shape="default"]

[button label="Download Weeks 11-12 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Galatians-Discussion-Guide-11-12.pdf" shape="default"]

[button label="Download Weeks 13-14 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Galatians-Discussion-Guide-13-14.pdf" shape="default"]

[button label="Download Weeks 15-16 here" link="http://midtowncolumbia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Weeks15-16.pdf" shape="default"]

5 Reasons Sunday Gatherings are Important

As a church, we seek to be the church by gathering corporately on Sundays, and by gathering in LifeGroups in each other’s homes.  We do this to follow the biblical model of the early church seen in Acts 2:42-47. For a long time, we have correctly emphasized the need for Jesus-centered community through small groups, in some part to fight the ever-popular “Sunday-only” mentality about church in our culture. We have not spent as much time explaining the biblical reasons for our Sunday worship gatherings. Sunday gatherings are both important and incomplete.  So, here are 5 reasons Sunday gatherings are important.

  1. Jesus and early church leaders preached to large gatherings On multiple occasions throughout Scripture we see Jesus and Peter addressing thousands of people at once. Paul also often taught to large gatherings of people on a regular basis. Christians have been gathering in large groups to worship and teach Scripture ever since the church began. If Jesus, Peter, and Paul consistently gathered in large groups; it seems important enough that we should too.
  2. Gospel proclamation God is a preaching God; using His word ever since creation to enact change in the world. Throughout Scripture God has chosen to speak through the mouths of men to His people. Sunday gatherings give us a great opportunity to continue to faithfully proclaim God’s word and the message of the gospel.
  3. Unity As we try to be the church through LifeGroups on mission, Sunday gatherings give us the opportunity to unify under Christ as we pursue His mission. We gather together as the church to unify all of our LifeGroups under the gospel, committing together to continue to pursue God’s mission with Him.
  4. Corporate Worship Sunday gatherings give us the opportunity to worship God together through giving, singing, and teaching. As Paul instructs both the Ephesian and Colossian church to address each other in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” gathering together each week allows us to address on another and God to address us through worship.
  5. Mission Sunday gatherings continue the mission of God. We are able to proclaim the gospel and introduce people to Jesus-centered family each time we gather to worship and proclaim the name of Jesus. Gathering allows us to host our city well as we pursue Jesus-centered family on mission loving and serving the city with the gospel.

Tomorrow we'll post part 2, "5 Reasons Why Sunday Gatherings Are Incomplete."