Lifegroups Are Not Always Life-Giving
April 15, 2021 | Category: Article
PREVIEW THE FIRST 2 CHAPTERS OF LEADING SMALL GROUPS THAT THRIVE
By Jessica Dixon, Children’s Ministry Associate, Storyline Church
The Church is realizing that it is intended to do life together and remain interconnected. The Church should be as interdependent as the organs and tissues of the body. Paul’s words, in Romans 12:4 illustrate this idea, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” In recognizing its need for one another, the church has responded by forming life groups or discipleship groups. However, when these groups are poorly facilitated and carried out, they do not live up to the purpose and potentiality for which they were designed. There are three ways that life group leaders can facilitate effective groups that do provide life-giving community and discipleship for its members.
Doormat or Domineering?
There are two extremes to avoid as a leader – being a doormat or being domineering. When a leader is a doormat, they fail to provide structure or any kind of authority. The group members, upon first gathering, will be relying on them to set expectations and rhythms for the group. The members will be thinking, “Do I need to bring food, or will food be provided? Can I bring my kids, or do I need to find childcare? Where will we be gathering? Should I head to the kitchen when I arrive or to the living room?” These questions are on going. It is important that the leader communicates that they have an intentional plan, the details of that plan, and are willing to take charge and provide structure for the group.
In contrast, it is important to not be overbearing or domineering, especially during group discussion. People are looking for a safe place. Equally valued contributions, as well as structure, communicate to members that the lifegroup is a refuge. The leader must be willing to give up time to talk or teach and even allow pushback to the agenda or ideas. In other words, the leader is also accountable. An effective lifegroup leader will, avoid lecturing and facilitate group discussion through intentionality, directing questions about the topic and Scripture, engaging the individuals in the group. The leader endeavors to authentically know the people in their group and consistently point them towards the character and nature of God.
Each member will join a life group for a variety of reasons. It is important for the leader to have prayerfully considered why he or she is leading this life group and what their goals are for the group’s outcomes. It is important to keep the vision at the forefront and communicate it often to the members. The leader’s personal commitment to the vision will inspire group unity and mutual investment. Many will be there solely for the communal aspect of doing life together. However, in order for the group to be sustainable, the leader must have a deeper motivation in addition to personal relationships to remain in the group. Personal relationships are unpredictable and will shift throughout the duration of the life group. If the group members have a mission outside of themselves to be participatory, then as interpersonal conflicts arise, they will be willing and equipped to work through those issues and remain committed to the group. The vision and mission can and should have a communal and relational aspect without forsaking the paramount reason for gathering – knowing God and making Him known.
It is vital for the leader to not view the lifegroup as something they own. The group belongs to the Lord; He receives all the glory. When the leader’s perspective on the lifegroup is thus aligned, there will be practical and beneficial outcomes. As the group progresses, the leader should gradually delegate and distribute leadership responsibilities. As they get to know the group members, they will discover individual spiritual gifts, strengths, and passions. It will be important to affirm these qualities when they are recognized and empower each member. This will give each participant ownership of the group as well. The leader begins to delegate responsibility to the group members’ strengths, and nurtures them to get out of their comfort zone. This is a fluid process; there is no need to stagnate in a role or task as a member or leader, but to instead be creative in incorporating the group members.
For example, in allowing a family to host dinner at their house, the leader is recognizing their gift of hospitality. For instance one of the ladies, who is clearly a prayer warrior, could be asked to lead the group in an evening of prayer and intercession for one another. A young theology student could be allowed to have a night of teaching and sharing what he or she has been learning. Again, this can shift and change as people shift and change as well. This will bring life to the group members as they begin to take ownership of the group, growing in confidence in their God-given strengths. They will know they have been seen and heard by the leader, and have earned their trust. A significant part of discipleship is calling people up into action. If the leader holds onto all responsibility and actualization throughout the duration of the lifegroup, then they will be thwarting the spiritual growth of the members.
Remember the three ways that a leader can begin to improve their life group to be a life-giving group:
Any lifegroup is for the glory of God and the betterment of his people. It is not about the leader. My prayer for small group leaders is that, through their ministry, they would personally know God better and make Him known.