Guest Post from “I” Leader Erin Gainey
As an “I” leader in my Sunday morning LIFE group, one of my responsibilities is to follow up with group members who have missed a few classes. Mike Glenn has mentioned several times that one of the first ways you can tell something is wrong is when people stop coming to church. Successful groups not only reach out to unconnected people but also provide support and accountability for regular members. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
When I notice that someone in my group has missed a few classes, I send them an email. I tell them that they have been missed, that I’m praying for them, and that I hope to see them again next week. It’s important for people to know that their absence has been noticed. My LIFE group has become my family. If a family member stopped showing up at family get-togethers, someone would say something. It should be the same way in a LIFE group. Following up also lets the person know that they’re being prayed for. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares enough to reach out and pray for them is enough to encourage a member to come back to class.
The importance of following up with members really hit home for me a couple of months ago. One member of my group had been absent for several weeks. I sent her an email, and the next time she came to class, she shared everything that had been going on. She also told us that she’s never really stuck with a Bible study. She would go to classes for a few weeks but then drop out. She has never stayed connected very long. However, because my LIFE group leader and I reached out to her when she stopped coming, she decided that she was going to be committed to our group. And she has been. She consistently comes to class and is an active participant. She has developed authentic and encouraging relationships with women in our class. All of this because a couple of people cared enough to let her know that she had been missed.
Following up with group members is a really simple, yet incredibly important, part of being an “I” leader. It only takes a few minutes and can be such a meaningful gesture for someone who really needs it.
In the mid 3rd century, the church faced its most brutal persecution under the brief reign of Decius. Everyone in the Empire, Christians included, were forced to bend to Roman governmental pressure, to sacrifice to Roman gods and then sign a document proving they complied. To refuse meant imprisonment or death. The wake of this edict and the Church’s response to it reverberated for centuries. Cyprian of Carthage was a voice for the Gospel during this time. His words of grace and reconciliation proved him to be a vital defender of the faith.
by Susan Hill
As a LIFE Group Leader, I am amazed at how effective social activities are for building relationships within the group. A few years back, the LIFE Group that had been meeting at my home on Wednesday nights moved to Sunday mornings on campus. I didn’t anticipate any changes in the group, but I was in for a rude awakening. Longtime group members who had spoken freely in my home were now virtually silent in the classroom on campus. As new members joined our group, longtime members shared less and less. As this trend continued, I was dumbfounded.
Despite the awkward transition, we started to plan social events outside of group. One Sunday, we had a picnic in the park. Another time, we attended a play at a local college. We got together and painted canvases on a Saturday afternoon. I immediately noticed that group members were talking and sharing more in social settings than they were during class. Slowly, relationships were building. This carried over to Sunday morning group time. My longtime members started speaking up on Sunday mornings like they had in my home group. Newcomers began sharing sooner than before. Before long, group members were getting together on their own during the week.
At Christmas, we decided to have our party at a local restaurant on a Saturday afternoon. I encouraged group members to invite people who weren’t connected to a LIFE Group. Honestly, I wasn’t overly optimistic that many newcomers would attend a Christmas party. To my surprise, six new people came to the party and three of them came to our LIFE Group the following Sunday morning.
This group transition taught me that social activities strengthen relationships in LIFE Groups and are evangelistic in nature. There are countless people who might not be willing to come to church but will gladly meet a group of friends at a local restaurant. After they meet new friends, they are far more willing to visit church.
As you consider ways to serve those you lead in your LIFE Group, don’t underestimate the value of getting together for social activities. People join a LIFE Group because they want to be a part of biblical community that extends outside group time. This describes the New Testament church that Paul describes in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.”