Debbie Eaton from Trabuco Canyon, California, has taken a different approach to IF: Table. For the first few months, Eaton gathered six women of various ages. Each woman knew one other person, but no one knew everyone. She saw something amazing happen with the women who gathered: They relaxed and opened up, knowing this wasn't a high commitment group.
When one of the women shared about her struggles as a new mom, Eaton says it was "neat to watch the other women not fix her, but just talk to her in the most loving way, encouraging her to be the mother God created her to be." The new mom called her a few days later to express how much the conversation had helped her—more than any mothers' club or Bible study she'd been to—because it had been a safe place to share and she had felt heard.
After a few months, Eaton and two of the women began to dream about using the IF: Table format to develop women leaders. So in August 2014, they invited 30 diverse women from 12 different churches in Southern California. They separated into different tables and got to know one another. Rather than talk about their individual churches and focus on their differences, the women came to see each other as sisters in Christ. Eaton knew these women were leaders—whether they knew it or not—and she was excited to develop them through the IF: Table experience.
After answering the questions, the women gathered together to worship, pray for one another, and pray for new IF: Tables that might be birthed. They will gather again quarterly to share stories—not in a competitive way—but to encourage, motivate, and activate one another. "There's a movement happening out here in Southern California," Debbie shared. "I feel like I'm watching God move in ways that are breaking down walls. The table puts everyone on equal footing, and we begin to see each other as sisters in Christ."
Beauty in Simplicity
Jennie Allen believes strongly in the importance of gathering together for Bible study in small groups, and IF: Table is helping facilitate that. She says,
All we've done is put these very simple tools out there, and then this passionate generation of Spirit-filled women take it and make a real impact in their community. You eat together, you open the Word, you pray, and you're generous to the needs around you. It's not new or cutting edge. But it's geared at people taking this into their world. It's not something to control or manage. It's something to offer that anybody can take it and use, and it'll be fun to see in Heaven how far it went.
IF: Table is a simple design for community that cuts through the surface level conversations that so many have grown content with. It's being replicated in ways that reflect unique communities, cutting across barriers of age, race, denomination, and region. As more women embrace authentic community through this simple model, leaders are rising up, and a generation of women are making a difference in their communities.
IF exists to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose. Sign up for their free daily Bible reading plan, IF: Equip, to stay connected with them.
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.