Are you currently asking, “What should my group study next?” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but check out groupresources.org by clicking the Resources link at the top of this page. But how do you actually choose what's right for your group?
One of your unique roles as a leader is to keep an eye on whether the group is helping each of its members grow in their relationships with Jesus. But how do you do that? A great practical way to gauge the health of your group is to regularly ask: How are we growing in the Three Vital Relationships?
Intimacy with God
- Where is God currently stretching me?
- Are my daily actions becoming more aligned with the priorities of Scripture?
- Are my times with God consistent?
Community with Insiders
- Am I openly sharing with others what is really going on in my life?
- As difficult circumstances arise, how are group members responding to one another?
- Are we willing to challenge one another in order to pursue God's best for our lives?
Influence with Outsiders
- Who am I regularly praying for who doesn't know Christ?
- What am I doing to connect with someone in my circle of influence who doesn't know Christ?
- Does my group challenge and encourage me to invest in someone who doesn't know Christ?
Casting a compelling vision is a key component of good leadership. That's the message of "People Aren't Following You Because You Aren't Being Clear," a recent blog post by Donald Miller.
Here's an excerpt:
"The world is standing before you, curious, asking where you’d like to take them. If you kind of have an answer, they’ll follow somebody else. If you want to be a leader, communicate clearly because that’s the only way anybody can know whether or not they want to join you.:
As you think about how effectively you cast vision, ask yourself these questions. They'll help you assess where you are and how you may be able to grow as a leader.
- Do I know what my group members are hoping to get out of our time together?
- Have I communicated to my group members what I want for them (as opposed to what I want from them)?
- Does my entire group understand the role of the Three Vital Relationships in their personal growth?
What other approaches do you take to ensure that you are casting a clear vision to your group members?
We talk about life change all the time. If you're a Community Group leader, it's your biggest goal for the people you lead. But what exactly is "life change"? How do you know it when you see it?
It's tempting to think of life change in terms of a shift in behavior. Changes in behavior can be a sign of life change, but they aren't the goal. The kind of life change we hope for—people becoming more and more like Jesus—isn't merely about how we behave. Real life change is characterized by healthy relationships and spiritual growth. That idea comes from Matthew 22:36–40, in which Jesus identifies the greatest commandment:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
That kind of life change begins internally with things like:
- trusting God's faithfulness regardless of discouraging or confusing circumstances,
- wanting physical and mental purity,
- viewing one's time, talents, and resources with an eternal perspective,
- prioritizing the truth of God's Word in decision making,
- loving others unconditionally, and
- developing a forgiving and compassionate heart.
Those kinds of internal changes usually result in behavior changes, but the external changes may be subtle—even unnoticeable—in the short term. Internal change is more important than behavioral change. Behavioral change without change of heart is often temporary. Behavioral change without change of heart doesn't bring a person closer to God.
It's also important to remember that life change is usually incremental. Any movement towards a closer relationship with Jesus is good. That's the win for group leadership.
I've written before about how your responsibilities as a leader are to think about the spiritual growth of every member of the group and make sure the group environment supports that growth. One of the best ways you can help yourself carry out those responsibilities is to perform regular group check-ups.
Every six months or so, take a timeout to assess how your group members are doing. Review the Group Agreement. Does the environment reflect what you all agreed to at the outset of the group? If not, you may need to bring group meetings into alignment with the agreement or adjust the agreement based on the rhythms you've established. Either way, it's a great opportunity to talk about what is and isn't working.
Is the group achieving its purpose? Are you making steady, incremental progress toward your goals of healthy relationships and spiritual growth? If so, take some time to recognize and celebrate that. If not, knowing you're off target is the only way you can get back on target.
Another great tool to use is the Group Member Assessment. Have your group members fill out this brief survey before you meet. It helps them to assess how they're growing in the Three Vital Relationships. Not only does the assessment help group members understand where they need to grow, it helps them understand how they've already grown. It's a great tool for mapping out the future, but also for celebrating the life change that has already occurred.
The assessment will give you a sense of how you can better lead your group members toward growth. Do you need to lean into a study about how to develop a deeper relationship with God? Do you need to focus on cultivating relationships within the group? Or maybe you need to cast some vision around serving others, and then get out into your community to do so on a regular basis.
The point is, you won't know exactly what your group needs if you're not intentional about finding out.
One more thing: Doing a group check-up may put you on the hot seat a little bit. It may reveal some areas where you can lead better. Don't take it personally. All leaders have opportunity for growth. The best leaders seek out those opportunities; they don't hide from them.
What have you done in the past to monitor the health of your groups?
On Monday, I wrote about why Invest and Invite can be a great approach to group multiplication. In this post, I want to give you six practical ways to weave Invest and Invite into the life of your group.
The key to the success of this approach is to continually cast vision about the importance of Influence with Outsiders. Introduce the concept early in the life of the group. Be intentional about revisiting it regularly.
- Plant the seeds (first 6-8 weeks). While the group is still brand new, cast a vision for what it means to have Influence with Outsiders, including what it means to Invest and Invite. Session 7 of Community: Starting Well In Your Small Group is all about Influence with Outsiders. It'll help you establish that vital relationship as a shared value in your group. Once you're finished with the 8-week starter period, resources like Go Fish, Start: Becoming a Good Samaritan, and Like Your Neighbor? are a great way to revisit the topic periodically throughout the life of the group.
- Memorialize the plan (8 weeks). As the group moves out of the 8-week starter period, the Group Agreement is a great tool for emphasizing the importance of a commitment to investing and inviting. The agreement addresses multiplication in two places—once in the values section, and again in the first guideline (where group members agree on the lifespan of the group). As you walk the group through the agreement, cast vision for why multiplication is such an important part of the Community Group experience.
- Commit to pray (2–3 months in). Once you've introduced Influence with Outsiders and Invest and Invite, raise the stakes a little. During prayer time one evening, ask everyone in the group to think about and share the names of those they want to invest in. Commit to pray for these people. Have someone in the group write all of their names down and distribute them to the group so they can pray for them on an ongoing basis.
- Schedule regular checkups (every 6–8 weeks). Every six to eight weeks, revisit the Invest and Invite prayer requests. Ask everyone how it's going and if there are more specific ways the group can be praying. At the midway point of the group's life span, dedicate one meeting to a group health checkup. Use the agreement to lead an informal discussion about how the group is doing in each of the values and guidelines. This provides an excellent opportunity to talk about Invest and Invite, and whether people need additional support.
- Beat the drum (6 months before multiplying). When the group begins to enter the home stretch—the six months before to multiplying—it's time to emphasize what the group needs to do to get ready for multiplying. Now is the time for group members to mention to the people they've been investing in that the group will be multiplying soon. From this point on, talk about multiplication at least once a month.
- Finalize the group effort (2–3 months before multiplying). As multiplication time draws near, group members can help one another with their invest and invite activities. As the existing group wraps up, host social events. Invite current group members and the people they've been investing in. This gives outsiders a taste of what Community Group is like. Take a few minutes to explain how Community Groups work. Have group members share a few stories about their Community Group experiences.
Let me wrap up with a reminder. Lists like this one are great because they're easy to read, help you absorb information quickly, and give you actionable steps. But they can also make things like Invest and Invite come across as a project made up of a series of simple tasks. But Invest and Invite is about relationships. It's about people . . . and people aren't projects. This list of six tasks isn't an end itself. It's a means to producing a heart for outsiders in you and your group members. Invest and Invite only works when the people you invest in know that you really do care about them.
One of the best and easiest ways to bring those outside the faith in is to invest in their lives and, when the time is right, invite them to an environment where they can begin to experience and explore the gospel.
We believe that to grow spiritually a person must focus on his or her relationship with God, with other believers, and with unbelievers.