- Am I coming to Life Group tonight expecting to play a part in this meeting?
- Is there a flow of spiritual gifts—giving and receiving for the mutual encouragement and building up of the body?
- Are people open to receiving from one another as opposed to focusing purely on what the leader brings to the group?
Stretch Out to Cover the City
When we sat down to consider the health of the groups in the church, we weren’t happy with the results. The answers to the "If you truly" questions were often "no." An honest reflection on our ministry led to a picture of a tent that was not pulled taught, flapping in the wind. While we definitely had some positives in our Life Groups, we weren't stretching ourselves over the city as effectively as we could (Isaiah 54:1–3). Some groups were too large, and others too small. Some were too familiar with each other relationally, while others hardly really knew each other at all.
We decided that we need to relaunch our Life Groups in order to stretch ourselves more effectively. Since our relaunch, we have sought to stretch ourselves in 2 ways:
The first is to stretch our ministry across our city. We wanted to increase our physical presence across the city and the number of locations where people meet in homes. We wanted to lean into the tent imagery and help people across the city come under the shelter of a Life Group. We decided we needed to multiply groups so that we could have more "stakes" in the city on which to stretch the fabric of our tent further and further. But in order for fabric to truly stretch, we needed to strengthen those "stakes" more by helping those Life Groups become strong.
The second aspect of stretching is to stretch ourselves beyond our own comforts. All of us get comfortable with what's familiar. Very few of us love change, and yet to gain something better requires some risk, change, and willingness to let go of the familiar. We have to let faith and hope drive our decision rather than comfort and security. For our Life Group members, this included letting go of some familiar relationships in order to join a new group. It also meant intentionally making our groups more diverse so that group members can experience the richness of diversity.
After our evaluation, we knew we needed to relaunch our ministry, not simply tweak a few things. With consensus from the elders, we moved ahead with shutting down all our groups and starting over.
Casting Vision to Leaders
Our first step was to talk to our current leaders, about 150 people. We discussed how we felt our ministry was falling short, and we painted a new picture for them. We started by asking people to remember that there was a time that they were on the fringe, that they felt isolated and immature and unsure of themselves and other believers. We asked them to remember how excluded they felt from things and how much they felt like a stranger. We spoke about how huge a step it was the first time they visited someone else’s home and opened up their world to others in a more real and intimate way. We asked if they remembered if someone had invited them and how many times they visited a group before the finally felt like committing. And for those who had been walking with God for a long time, we asked them to think about those who are just coming to faith, how different they feel, and how big a hurdle it can be to get involved.