There is a high level of excitement that comes with buying a new car. The salesman meets you on the parking lot ready to dish out the best pitch of his lifetime. He offers you every amenity you could imagine for the car of your dreams. The more he talks, the more you drool. But just when you have fallen in love with your dream car, the sales person drops the bombshell: the price. You stand with your mouth wide open watching your dream vanish.
Unfortunately, we as Christians often do the same thing with grace.
There Is a Price
Sometimes we are the "salesperson" (the giver) and sometimes we are the "buyer" (the receiver). Either way, grace should always affordable—but it is never free.
As small-group leaders, we should be the ones giving grace within our group. But we need to understand that it will cost us time, emotional investment, and compassion at the very least.
When people in your group come to you broken over a lost job, lost love, or simply life circumstances, they need grace. They need to know a leader is willing to take time to hear their brokenness and invest to help them through this difficult time. While they do need truth to be spoken, they need grace first. Indeed, through our willingness to help people through their trials—to extend the grace with our time or other investments—we open the doors of truth for our group members.
It's a Price We Need to Pay
I recently went to get my hair cut, and it happened that the stylist is a member of my group. It took 5 minutes for her to cut my hair, but we talked for 30 minutes. It was an unexpected "grace" moment (the best kind.). She is going through a difficult time in her life that I have already walked through myself, so I listened as she vented her anger and hurt over the situation. After she shared her burden, I asked her a couple of questions and let her know that I would be there for and with her through this time. Then I went on my way. The following Sunday the same young lady found me and told me how much she appreciated my time and willingness to listen. She told me that the questions I asked her made her really evaluate her situation and her role in it.
Did that moment of grace cost me time? Yes. Did it require me to give of myself? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Every small group contains people who feel broken. Some believe they are unworthy of God's grace, let alone another person's grace. And many people believe they have to do something in order to receive this loving grace—that there is a price they have to pay. Whether it is pride or shame, grace seems so costly to many. In addition, some members in a small group feel guilty about asking for another person's help. Even worse, they feel ashamed of their situation and do not want to share their burden.
That's why it can be such a powerful gesture when we as leaders take the initiative to invest our time and resources in those who are hurting and broken. When we pay the price of extending grace, we make it easier for the people in our group to receive it free of charge.
Remember that, small-group leader. You have the opportunity to show others how affordable (and priceless) grace really is.
—Peri Sandifer is the Small-Group Coordinator at The Simple Church in Bossier City, LA. Copyright 2011 by the author and Christianity Today International.