Support groups cost something. They tax the entire system of the church. A church may be flush with excitement at the prospects of helping a needy group, but if a church is not ready, a new support group can do more harm than good. We are wise, then, to count the cost of support groups before we start them.
After starting more than two dozen different support groups in our church, I've learned what costs to anticipate and how to deal with them.
Yet I don't want simply to identify costs; that one-sided approach would make me too timid. Before I survey the costs, I remind myself of the benefits.
Just as a house or car has a high cost with a significant benefit, so support groups have proven to be worth our while. As our divorce recovery groups illustrate, they foster:
Healing. Larry was hurting when he came to our divorce recovery group. His wife had abruptly pronounced their marriage over, and soon he found himself divorced. The members of divorce recovery groups are, by definition, gashed and wounded. Their grief is as real as any cut or bruise. Over the following weeks, the group gave Larry the support, acceptance, and living skills that brought hope and the beginning of health.
Evangelism. Although she didn't have a church background, Angela came to one of our groups. In the course of the sessions, she saw faith at work in others and sensed her own need for Christ. She began visiting the church on Sunday mornings and was baptized approximately a year after beginning with the group.
While our groups are open to anyone—without pressure to attend the church or to believe in Jesus—our caring enough to offer the group often earns us a hearing. It's not unusual for group members ...