People in the third stage are mature in their faith and have dealt with the inner life. Now they need running mates who will continually remind them to stay the course and persevere. As they continue to journey, they'll face new inner struggles that need to be dealt with and hard life circumstances that will try them. Friends that are able to call out the struggles and unhealthy patterns they see are especially helpful in this stage. People in this stage are especially equipped to help others along the journey—whatever the stage. They need strong mutual relationships that pour into them and opportunities to help others. They need a group leader who is more friend than guide.
Caliguire recognizes that, unfortunately, deep relationships are unusual in our churches. She writes: "As we talk about discipleship and spiritual formation, I notice that a focus on fostering a variety of relationships for the intentional purpose of spiritual growth seems to be weak and in some cases is entirely absent." Yet it's clear that people at all stages of the journey need meaningful relationships—relationships that can come through small groups if we're intentional.
Who This Book Is For
This resource is best for churches that have intentional small groups that desire to focus on discipleship, but that doesn't mean they must be curriculum-heavy. Churches must also be willing to have groups that are not completely controlled. In other words, a church that has all groups doing the same thing at all times will struggle to implement Caliguire's wisdom. Churches need not subscribe to one small-group model. Instead, the information in STIR can help in a variety of settings and models—as long as the ministry is seeking to be intentional about discipleship through small groups.
I highly recommend small-group coaches read this book so they can mentor leaders in how to best care for their group members. It's also a great book for small-group pastors, small-group directors, and discipleship pastors. Even youth pastors can benefit from the wisdom in this book if there are small groups in the youth ministry.
For an excerpt from STIR, read "Leading a Growing Group."
—Amy Jackson is the managing editor of SmallGroups.com and holds an M.A. in Christian Formation and Ministry; copyright 2014 by Christianity Today.