I have a challenge for you this month that I believe will inspire you and make a measurable difference in your life. It will only take an hour/month and a little initiative to get it going. OK – here it is: Start a group of 3 or 4 people that you connect with and who are willing to meet for an hour each month to have ‘conversations on purpose’. This can be in person or online. (of course, you can meet more often as desired)
We always need the support others but of all times, this is and has been a season of isolation and we have an opportunity of meeting as a ‘small church.’ This seemed to be the basic structure of the early church, meeting house to house. So we can meet zoom room to zoom room!
Here’s a quote from Simon Sinek from his book, ‘Together is better.’
‘Life is difficult and dangerous. Anyone who would attempt to do it alone is simply mad. We know to always do difficult things with a buddy. So, if the journey of life is to be filled with setbacks and disappointments, with confusion and uncertainty, it makes sense that we should trust others to join us on the journey. As individuals, we’re useless. We can’t lift heavy weights and we can’t solve complex problems. But together? Together we are remarkable.’
As I reflect on my life over the years, I recognise how I have benefitted greatly during the times I have met with others to share about our life journeys. Some of us need a small group setting with a built-in agenda of caring and sharing the things that really matter.
During the 6-week leadership development courses we have had ‘peer groups’ of 3 or 4 people to be personal, vulnerable and real together -s talking about our lives. During training courses, we have often had process groups with the purpose of talking through the teaching and applying it into our lives. Often these groups have carried on after the courses. Sometimes we have gotten together with another couple over a season to share life and to encourage each other to grow and develop in our relationship and spiritual life.
There are many examples of the value of these kind of relationships in the bible and throughout history. Of course, we can immediately think of Jesus and his close friendships with Peter, James and John. He needed that level of intimacy with a few, rather than always meeting with the larger group. Then there is Moses on the mountain with Aaron and Hur. King David spent much time with Abishai, Asahel and Joab – his 3 mighty men cousins. Paul had Timothy, Titus and Silas. The foundation of the Wesley revival were his small groups, where there was a commitment to meet regularly to share life challenges and temptations.
I am calling these groups ‘caring connections’, but you can call them anything you like. We may have a multitude of connections, but they aren’t all in the caring category. There is a hunger for transformation, and this is a simple way of making a step in that direction. We come away from these times feeling valued, encouraged and affirmed. Plus, a little accountability like this goes a very long way in helping to bring about some needed changes.
Stop and think for a moment and several people will probably come to mind as potential people to connect with. These people can invest in your life and you in theirs. We weren’t created to be islands but to form small communities of shared life where we can listen to one another, discern with them their situations and decisions, affirm them, have ambition for them and be accountable together for our ongoing growth.
So, who are the friends, colleagues and family members who perhaps are spread across the nations, or right on your doorstep, that you would like to connect with more deeply? We are not necessarily talking about being together forever! It could be a short season, or it could be much longer. We could even have several groups we meet with for slightly different reasons.
Why get together:
- to connect with others who are going through similar issues
- to help one another discern futures, decisions and plans
- to simply help one another process life out loud
- to experience spiritual exercises together – devotions, lectio divina, visio divina, examen, mini retreats, …
- to read and discuss a book together
- to enjoy companionship and deeper connections
- to learn and grow, be real, honest and vulnerable
- to stimulate one another to finish well
In my experience, these groups don’t just happen – you need to be intentional about taking your conversations deeper.
What kind of structure do you need?
There seems to be three parts to a simple peer group or caring connection. Even in a small group of 3 or 4, it’s good to have a facilitator, so take it in turns to lead the group time.
It’s helpful to keep it short to around an hour or so and meet monthly or bi-weekly depending on your situation. 1 hour/month is like 0.14% of the month! Surely, we can squeeze that into our busy schedules, can’t we?
Connect: when you initially get online with Zoom, WhatsApp or whatever platform you are using, do some initial catching up. Share the latest news, the current joke, the new project or whatever has just happened in your lives. Sometimes, if it’s a more introverted group, or you want to move into a more personal sharing straight away, it can be helpful to have an icebreaker. You can ask questions like: How’s your week been in terms of the weather? What’s been your favourite day this week and why? What has given you life this week?
Conversation: Each week the facilitator should think about the agenda. If you have a specific purpose as a group, then the conversation will be around an aspect of this purpose. If it’s a more informal group, the facilitator can simply ask a question for everyone to answer or a devotion to consider. Sometimes it’s useful to have the question ahead of time so you can process a little before – especially if some in the group aren’t as spontaneous. Perhaps there’s a situation you want to discuss in order to receive some advice or there’s an ongoing situation that you can bring an update each time you meet. For instance, in my group we are all going through various times of transition and so each time we meet the sharing is around how we are working those transitions through effectively
There are so many areas to explore together – your passions, your hobbies, your friendships, your marriages and families, your reading list, your spiritual life, your transitions, …. It’s not difficult to come up with a question or devotion around a question, but if you need to, just google ‘questions to ask in small groups!’
Care: Having shared something from our lives, we can then respond to one another. We can take time to pray for each other, bring encouragement, make a commitment to share ongoing texts, to help out in practical ways and simply carry one another’s concerns in prayer and thought.
I would love to hear back from those of you who are ready to take this step of initiative. Let’s make those caring connections,
Until next month