LIFE GROUP MODEL
One of the most prolific and detrimental problems a church can practice is a confusion over what is a form and what is a function of the church. A form is a method, a way to get something done. A function directly involves the purpose, what needs to be done. There are many forms to accomplish a function, and some forms can be more effective than others. The danger is when we elevate a form to the place of a function. At that point we have made the way we should do it more important than what we set out to do.
We are now going to present a form. This form should be weighed by if this is the best way for you to accomplish the goal of making and growing more followers of Christ. But we must caution you, this form should never become the goal. Making and growing followers of Christ is our focus.
The Components of a Life Group
To multiply, life groups need to be equipping their members to be the next leaders because they will soon have two groups. In this way the life group balances a pursuit of numeric growth with a pursuit of spiritual equipping and growth.
Beyond this unique characteristic, life groups can be broken down into four components. When life groups gather, we have fellowship time, a time of praise, a Bible study, and a vision or growth section. These four components have a budgeted time so that the group stays focused on what matters most and respects everyone’s time.
A life group is similar to a small group, but it has one distinct characteristic: it aims to multiply. I understand, this doesn’t entirely sound earth shattering or even novel. Honestly, this is not a new idea. The Apostles Peter and Paul were doing this since the book of Acts. We are not reinventing the wheel. We are, however, shifting the way we look at our local church and how we view small groups.
Life groups are not waiting for the church leadership to assign them more members; rather, they aim to grow in numbers by inviting and engaging their own friends, neighbors, and co-workers. The aim is to grow as a small group where they then invite these new members to their Sunday church environment.
"A person who is not thankful cannot be in the will of God." A statement that has stuck with me ever since a mentor of mine came and preached at my church. Yet, considering how often we read about how we should rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances, and how this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, I find it hard to disagree with the statement about our thankfulness. Yet, I don’t think I am alone when I say that it is sometimes really hard to be a thankful follower of Christ. We can easily find ourselves disgruntled or unhappy because of what has been happening lately or how life has generally been treating us.
Life Groups are committed to spending time worshipping and praising God every week. This is a focused time where we draw our attention to God. We want to notice who God is, what He has done for us, and how He promises a beautiful future and hope for us. When we pause to consider God’s character and activity for us on our behalf, we have an immense amount of things to be thankful and praise God for no matter what is happening to us at the moment.
After we draw our attention to God and His character and actions, we want to spend time reading the truth that God has revealed to us. We spend time doing an inductive Bible study. Our desire is to understand what God is saying through the human author who penned those words as it was received and understood by the original audience and then apply that truth to our lives today. To do this we look at the historical context that surrounds the writing, the grammatical structure in the section, and how this section relates to Scripture as a whole.
The study is set up that the facilitator asks the group questions. The first round of questions are poised to draw out observations from the passage—what is found directly in the section. Secondly, the facilitator will move into questions that help the interact with the interpretation and biblical principles or truths those observations are drawing us towards. This section is typically where most people have questions about what a passage is saying and it is a great opportunity for people to weigh in ask those questions for the group to discuss. Finally we interact with questions that urge us to apply that truth to our lives.
In essence, the Life Group leader is focused on being a facilitator rather than a teacher. The lessons we create allow the leader to focus on having the members of the group be talking more than the leader be the didactic teacher. We hope the way we approach and read scripture leads more people to be equipped to read and understand God’s Word on their own.
These lessons are based off of the structure of an inductive Bible study. The inductive Bible study uses inductive reasoning to find the solution or truth. Most of us are familiar with deductive reasoning. This reasoning is used when there is a crime, like a theft for example. The detective will arrive at the crime scene, knowing what has been taken or broken, and will deduce from the clues at the scene what happened previously. Inductive reasoning goes about this a bit differently. This time, instead of knowing what happened, we arrive at the scene merely observing what is being said and what is being done and what is there. From those observations we conclude the message and the truth.
We choose the inductive method because too many times we come to a scene in scripture with an assumption or inclination of the result—or should we say what we want to be the result. We want to read ourselves or our situation into the passage and so we “deduce” what God is doing or saying to our lives, often to get what we wanted all along. It is our hope and our aim to not read ourselves or our situation into the passage of Scripture but to understand what God is saying through the author to the audience and then apply that truth to our lives in how it relates to us today.
Often, when I understand what God is communicating via the author I find what my assumption was to be shallow and the “easy way out”. When I see how God was confronting the culture or circumstance the story really comes to life. And it becomes easier and scarier to apply those principles to my life because I am better equipped to apply it to my life where I may be practicing the same things the original audience was.
Definition of an Inductive Bible Study
The last portion of a Life Group is to spend time talking about how the group is going to grow and eventually multiply. This portion is not typical to small groups since small groups usually stay together rather than aim to multiply. But this is vital to our Life Groups. When we aim to multiply we are setting into motion a life on mission. We want to equip and send believers so that more people may know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Understandably, this means there is a cost and a discomfort in a life group. They are going to see relationships change and that means it gets uncomfortable at times. But one of the costliest hindrances of spiritual growth in the church is getting comfortable. Because when we get comfortable we set our eyes on maintaining rather than growing. We battle to keep rather than to gain. We defend our ivory towers rather than share the love of the gospel with others. It is tempting to allow this pattern to make us settle for something good when we can aim for what is best.
The vision and growth time instils the idea that the group is looking forward to welcoming new people. This time is used to plan meals or events to engage friends and neighbors. This time is also used to train members on how to share the gospel or a personal testimony. This time is also used to plan the monthly service project where a member coordinates a project in their neighborhood for the group to participate in.
Vision and Growth
One item that we have found to have a profound impact on a believer and their neighborhood is doing service projects. Once a month one member coordinates a service project in their neighborhood for the group to complete. This act of service challenges the life group to be actively involved in the neighborhood of one its members and changes the way people think about their neighbors. First, it prompts people to simply get to know their neighbors. It is remarkably easy to live next to someone for years and not even know their name.
Secondly, it causes members to look for needs they can address as a group. Often we can see an item that a neighbor may need help doing, but it is much larger project than what you can offer to do for them, but with a group made of members that have different gifts you can accomplish a lot more than you imagine—you can get stuff done. Finally, this is one of the best ways to align the words of the gospel message about God’s love for the world with the conduct God desires from His people.
The life group leader is responsible to remind and coordinate which projects and which neighborhood the group will be serving in next. Some members need an extra “push” to line something up. The beautiful thing is that these work projects do not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as picking up trash or raking leaves in the Fall. It can also be taking on bigger projects like doing maintenance on decks in a town home association. The main thing is to be actively involved in the neighborhoods of the life group members. In this way the life group gets to know people who may not know Christ and begin building a relationship with them.
Monthly Service Project
A life group certainly is a form. It is a way to accomplish a function of the church. We believe this form is incredibly worthwhile because it strengthens the relationships of believers, equips those in the body of Christ to use their own gifts and be leaders, and invites the community into a circle that can know their name and care for them. This form also looks for growth in numbers from outside the church circle. Life groups are encouraged to engage their neighbors, coworkers, and friends who do not have a relationship with God. Life groups aim to bring people in to an intimate circle where we cannot hide our lives, and we have the opportunity to grow together and closer to Christ.
We Are Here to Help
If you would like to know more about the details of how we do our ministry and how it can be done in your neighborhood or church we would love to hear from you! We do not want to merely add to the noise of programs in your life or church. We want serving, sharing the gospel, and discipleship to become the lifestyle of your life and church. We want to partner with you to accomplish this so please reach out and we would love to interact with you and your unique background and environment.