If you've been in leadership at a North Point Ministries church for any amount of time, you've probably heard Andy Stanley, your Groups Director, or someone else on staff talk about The Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith. If you're new to leadership and this is the first time you're hearing about the Five Things, rest assured that you'll hear more in the months and years to come.
The Five Things are:
- Pivotal Circumstances
- Practical Teaching
- Providential Relationships
- Personal Ministry
- Private Disciplines.
I won't cover each of the Five Things in detail in this post, but the idea behind them is that when you listen to people tell the stories of their faith journeys, these five things come up again and again. They're the things that God uses to encourage and sometimes challenge us to trust him. They're catalysts for our growth.
If you've just started a new group and you're currently preparing for your first group meeting, I want to point you toward one of the Five Things in order to give you a framework for your preparation. During the first couple months of your group, keep Providential Relationships front of mind. Put most of your energy into building relationships in your group. Close relationships in a group aren't a bonus feature. They're central to the experience because it's through our relationships that God provides us with the opportunity and accountability to live out the truth of his Word.
When we talk about "providential" relationships, we mean relationships that come about because of God's care and guidance. These are people he places in our lives in order to change us—to make us more like Jesus.
There's no guarantee that your relationships with the members of your group will be providential, but they may. You're all in group to pursue a growing relationship with Jesus, after all. It's best to proceed as though God has placed these people in your life at this very moment because there's some specific way he wants to grow you . . . and them.
So give yourself permission to focus on building relationships over the next couple months. The starter study will give your group some opportunities to read the Bible and pray with one another. But don't allow yourself to think that when you're just hanging out and having fun as a group, you're wasting time. You're not. Those are important relational investments. They will pay dividends over time.
As you prepare for your first group meeting, some of the resources on the Leader Tools page of this site can help:
- Starting Well—this quick reference card provides tips for the first three months of Community Group leadership.
- Sample Icebreakers—this collection of questions is great for generating the kinds of conversations that help people start to get to know one another.
- Sample Icebreaker Activities for Just Married Groups—if you're leading a Just Married Group, these icebreaker games and activities are great for helping group members become comfortable with one another.
If you're an experienced group leader, what other things have you done to connect with your new group members?