My family and I recently spent a week in Outer Banks, North Carolina. Each day, we walked two blocks to the beach where we surfed, boogie-boarded, ocean-kayaked, and swam with dolphins. These things were inspiring, but what really took my breath away was seeing the ocean for the first time each morning. In order to get to the beach, we had to walk through the parking lot of a motel, up ten steps and through an open gate. Every time I walked up those stairs, the ocean view took my breath away. Maybe it is because I live in the heartland where breathtaking views of water are difficult to find, or maybe it is the fact that I have not been near the ocean long enough to take its enormity for granted. Whatever the reason, I found the Atlantic Ocean inspiring, scary, massive, mysterious, creative, beautiful, and humbling.
This is also how I view God. When I choose to take the ten steps to the big, overstuffed chair in my sunroom and look into the vastness of my Bible early in the morning, I find myself in awe of the enormity of God. He, all at once, inspires me, scares me, and humbles me. As I read the testimonies of His love and grace, I am encouraged by the possibilities for my own life. The Word is the gateway that leads me to His never-ending possibilities. However, those who live a life without God's Word need another way to see His offer of abundant, eternal life.
This month, plan an evening of testimonies.
Things to do before the event:
- Pick a date several weeks out to allow time to prepare.
- Ask your small group members to invite people they know who have been asking questions about God, people who have recently experienced a death or other tragedy in their life, people who profess belief in God but do not attend any church, people who voice dislike of the organized church, or anyone he or she feels God is leading them to ask.
- Ask each person to write out his or her testimony. The testimony can be about receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, a time of experiencing God's physical or emotional healing, an experience of God's provision, or the life-changing power of God's love. Use one or more meetings to allow each person to share his or her testimony with the group. This can be a time of powerful growth and healing for your group members.
- Spend time each week, collectively during the meeting and individually at home, praying for those who have been invited.
Things to do the night of the event:
- Create a relaxed atmosphere. If possible, meet on a back deck or patio, around a fire, or on blankets on the grass.
- Provide coffee, juice, water, and dessert.
- Make introductions as people arrive.
- Ask a barrier breaker question: Ask each person to say their first name along with a word that describes themselves that begins with the same letter as their first name. Another option is to pass around a bag filled with miscellaneous household items, instructing each person to take one item. Ask each person to share how he or she is like the item they picked.
- Transition into sharing testimonies by emphasizing the fact that each person has a story to tell and, in the telling, others are often encouraged. Make it clear that the evening is intended to be a time of encouragement not judgment. Also, stress the need for confidentiality—what is heard during this time stays within the confines of this time.
- Ask for a volunteer to begin the testimonies. Not everyone in your group will be able to share his or her testimony due to time constraints. After each testimony, ask if anyone has any questions. Pray a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the work God is doing in the life of the one who shared. Ask for another volunteer.
- Allow time at the end of the evening to ask if anyone needs prayer. Prayer can be done as a group or one-on-one.
- Thank everyone for coming and extend an invitation to your small group, giving the times and location.
Things to do after the event:
- Continue to pray for those who came.
- Make sharing testimonies a regular part of your small group meeting time.
- Consider planning another evening of testimonies in a few months.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Write out a testimony of God's healing power and send it to parents, a close relative, or a friend.
- Send an old photo of a treasured memory to someone who was there. Include a note of reminiscence and thankfulness.
- Journal about the possibilities of beginning a new chapter in life.