During the breakout session of the Small Group Leader Kickoff, Kelly Isenberger, shared about how Small Groups can be involved in missions. I invite you to watch this short video and share it with your Small Group. Getting our groups to 'be on mission' together is a key in mobilizing our church to participate in mission in a greater way. You can email Kelly by clicking here if you would like more information or have questions.
This past week has been a difficult one for our state and for our country as we have seen racial tension come to a head with violence. I read about these tragic events while I was at student camp supposedly 'isolated' from the outside world. But unfortunately due to the age in which we live where we can get access to news instantly, I was able to read out the tragic event that took place in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas. As I sat there reading about what was taking place, I was struck by the fact that it has now become easier in our world to hate someone than love them. When we disagree, it has become easier to use violence instead of discussing things rationally. How did we get here? More importantly how to we move forward?
This summer our Small Groups are studying the books of 1 & 2 Peter. These letters where written at a time when the church was under tremendous persecution and was literally under attack. In I Peter chapter 3, Peter writes this, "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." I see a couple of key points in this text that can help us move forward to address the current situation that we find ourselves in as a society.
1. Be sympathetic (i.e. there is no winner in this conflict) Both sides of this conflict over race have valid arguments. Both sides have lost lives trying to make their point. In the grand scheme of things it does not matter if we are on the right side of the argument! The only thing that matters is to be sympathetic for the loss of life on both sides and not take a side in the first place.
2. Love one another. At the top of this post is a picture of me and Sam Collier. Sam was our camp speaker and lives in Atlanta, GA my former hometown! I love Sam very much and the crazy thing is that I only met him last week! How can you love someone that much when you only just met him? Simple, what we have in common is more than what divides us. Sam is African American. I am white. Sam lives in the inner city of Atlanta. I live in the suburbs of Houston. It's easy when dealing with issues of race to focus on what is different about our worlds. Now maybe I will never understand everything about Sam and where he comes from but I know this; Sam and I both worship and serve the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love Sam because Jesus loves Sam. Sam loves me because Jesus loves me. This is what it means to love one another.
3. Be compassionate and humble. In the coming weeks, more rhetoric and blame is going to be thrown around for why this happened and what we are going to do to 'fix it'. Let me encourage you to take Peter's advice and focus on being compassionate and humble. Resist the urge to post that inflammatory comment on social media. Instead why not bake some cookies and take them to the police station and tell them 'thank you' for their service and for keeping you safe. Pray for our leaders and for wisdom to address this current racial crisis with humility and love.
These are extraordinary times in which we see ourselves living. But the church can rise up and be the voice of love and compassion that is needed at this time in history. As Small Group Leaders we have tremendous influence and opportunity on what this looks like. I pray for our country and for each of you this week. Remember "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8) and what unites us is greater than what divides us.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-43
I am often asked if Saddleback’s small groups continue meeting during the summer. Let me answer that question by asking a more fundamental question—“What are you trying to get from your small groups?” Small groups are the center of our discipleship, the structure of our ministry, the launch pad of our evangelism, the enrichment of our worship, and the network of our fellowship.
Whenever you tell small groups when to meet (the day of the week or time) and when to take a break (seasonal times), you are lowering your expectations for all groups. Your groups will never rise above your expectations. If you tell groups to stop meeting during the summer, they will stop—whether that is good for them or not. Instead, we manage groups for health (macro) and let groups figure out frequency (micro).
The only ones off for summer are kids, unless they are in a year-round schedule. Adults generally only have two or three week vacations. So, why would you want to tell all of your groups to take a break during the summer? Most couples groups with kids get better traction in summer than the school year. Why? Because the kids have no homework and sport schedules slow down. My small group loves meeting during the summer because the kids’ schedules are easy. If we stopped during summer, that would kill our sweetest time of group life.
Do you take the summer off from your kids? How about your spouse? What about your close friends? I don’t. My friends are part of my small group. I wouldn’t want to miss hanging with them. If your small group isn’t full of people you want to do life with, you need to change that and get together with your friends.
Summer is also a great time to make new memories whether your group is new or has been together awhile. Use activities (some ideas are listed at the close of this article) to help bond your group. This will take fellowship to a new level and encourage transparency so discipleship and accountability can deepen. Summer is also a great time to develop ministry and missions.
So, why miss the perfect time to develop your small groups to a new level?
With that in mind–summer is here! Schedules are changing, vacations are planned, and summer activities may have to be arranged. While summer can be a time for some “vacation” from school and other activities, friendship and community can grow deeper. Here are some suggestions to help encourage consistency, provide new memories, and help breathe some new life into your small groups. Pass them along to all of your small groups.
Stay consistent: continue to meet when you regularly meet.
If one family, couple, or member cannot make it because of vacation plans or other things, don’t take it personally and get together with whoever is available. If it turns out that only a few can meet, still meet. This gives you an opportunity to fellowship in a more intimate group, and it’s amazing how you may grow closer just meeting with the few who can attend.
Uplift someone or a group in your area.
“Missions Trips” don’t have to be far away. You don’t just have to think globally, you can look locally! Look for ways that your small group can uplift someone in your community. What about a Senior Home to visit? Maybe there is a widow on your block that needs comfort? Do you know an elderly person that may just need a few things done to his/her yard? Your group can also volunteer at a local orphanage, school, church summer camp, or prison.
Modify group meetings.
Have a Barbeque, Date Night, or Girls Night/Boys’ Night out. Maybe someone has a pool, trampoline, or basketball hoop in their backyard for some fun and games. Have small group at the beach, the park, or by the lake! Our small group has had swim parties, and barbeques with our children, as well as couples only nights for the adults to get to know one another better.
Explore Rotating leadership and homes.
Commit to have a meeting even if it’s just two or three people. Hosts/leaders, if you’re going to be out of town, ask someone to have the group meeting at their house. This is a great way to start sharing leadership, if you aren’t already.
Involve everyone in an overnight retreat together.
Find a campground, plan an overnight or two-day outing, meet up around a campfire at night, and eat, sing, and have a devotional. Oh yeah! One overnight retreat is worth 26 weeks of small group meetings.
Minister together, do a serve project!
What a great time to help out at church, fix up a group member’s home, do some yard work for someone who is not doing well, or serve one Sunday morning in a way to help your church. See your church for a list of ways to serve as a group.
Experience a night of worship.
Ask each person to bring two of their favorite worship songs. Play them all and share why the songs they brought have meaning to them. If your church polity allows, have communion at the end.
Check out this verse. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more, as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
So, keep going and have a fun S-U-M-M-E-R-T-I-M-E. Together
As a leader, sometimes leading is a ministry. You pour into others even though they may not be capable of pouring into you. You may not always find community—strong, reciprocal relationships—in your group. If you don’t already have it, how do you find the community you need so you can keep growing and leading? While there’s no magical solution, there are two key ingredients from a post at the North Point Church's Group Leader Blog.
1) Depth of Relationship
You have a deep relationship with a person . . .
- Who brings out the best in you
- Who is in your corner
- Who is there for you
1) Frequency of Interaction
- Your paths cross regularly and naturally.
- You interactions are face-to-face.
- You would like to know the person well.
The first step to finding real community is to identify those people with whom you have either depth of relationship or frequency of interaction. The next step is to figure out how and with whom you can begin to experience both.
"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:14
Nine times in the Gospels the scriptures say that 'Jesus withdrew' from the crowd so that he could tend to his soul and own spiritual wellbeing. As leaders we often run very hard and attach everything on our plates with great gusto. Eventually we will reach a place of exhaustion and the need to rest. One thing that I have come to understand about leadership is that God has wired me to work very hard and for long periods. Sitting down to rest for me is very hard. I have also learned that if I do not intentionally stop and rest I will eventually run out of gas and start causing damage to others.
You may ask yourself 'how can I find time to rest when I have so much going on?' This is a valid question and one that I can appreciate as a husband, pastor, and father of 3 girls. What I am not advocating is that you checkout of everything in your life and move to an island somewhere. What I would encourage you to do is to ask yourself some key questions. Answering these questions can help you find moments of rest throughout your day and week and can help you to not run out of gas.
Here are the key questions:
1) What things am I doing that refresh me? All of us have hobbies or interests that recharge our souls. They might be painting, fishing, hiking, etc. Find time in your schedule to do these things.
2) What things am I doing that drain me? In the same way that the things that we like to do refresh us, there are things that we do that drain us. Make a list of these things and work as hard as possible to avoid doing them.
3) What are my warning signs that I need to refuel? In the same way that the fuel gage on our dashboard alerts us that we are low on fuel, we need to identify and pay attention to the signs that we are running low on fuel. Losing your temper with your kids or not being able to complete assignments at work are some great examples of warning signs that it might be time to take a rest.
4) Who do I have in my life that can gentle remind me to pull over and refuel? Invite someone to invest in you and give them permission to tell you to stop and refuel when they begin to notice some of your warning signs. Your spouse is a great person to ask or a member of your Small Group. Giving others permission to tell you when you are running on fumes will help prevent you from running out of gas!
Taking time to rest and recharge is part of the rhythm of life. Jesus knew this and practiced it. So take time to determine what you can do to refill your tank.