Have you ever had a group meeting that made you think, “That was really fun, but we didn't get to the study”? The good news is the “community” part of your Community Group is probably going well. But that’s not all your group is about. It should be a place where life change happens within the context of community. That means the relationships need to be intentional. You need to have a shared goal.
For most women, building relationships comes easily. In fact, the anchor of women's Community Groups is often our relationships with one another. Here's the challenge: God wants us to be connected to each other, but he also wants us to be connected to Him. Relationships are the hands and feet of God’s love for us.
The apostle Paul prayed we would experience and understand God’s love for us through the context of our relationships with one another. His hope was that we “…may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18–19).
In other words, we are to experience and grow in God’s love alongside others on the same journey of growth.
So, how do you lead your group from good relationships towards life-changing relationships that nurture spiritual growth? How do you make sure you're cultivating relationships and leading your group members to read, discuss, and apply God's Word? Here are four practical things you can do:
- Leverage time outside of group to build relationships. Don’t only use group time to build community. There’s not enough of it. Using time outside of group to build the relationships, frees up more group time to dig into God’s Word and pray together.
- Set the expectations for the weekly group time. Communicate that group time consists of three things: sharing (time to connect relationally), study, and prayer. Keep casting vision around sharing, study, and prayer so your group doesn't drift. The Group Agreement is a great tool for setting clear expectations from the outset about what happens during group meetings.
- Paint a picture of spiritual growth. Relationships are a consistent thread in The Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith. Help your group members see the connection between relationships and how they are growing spiritually. Consider setting aside a group meeting to discuss the Five Things and share and encourage each other. If you want to dig deeper, you can even take a few weeks to study the Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith sermon series by Andy Stanley.
- Press for “so what” during group discussions. Don’t just let discussions be a time for venting. Ask questions, while affirming how your group members feel. “It sounds like your boss is being really difficult right now. What do you think it looks like to respond with humility?” Learning to ask "so what" questions takes some practice, but the results will be worth your effort.
Have any of your groups ever drifted into too much social time and not enough study? What did you do to correct course?