Hurting During the Holidays

By Jay Fennell

The holiday season is a joyous and heart-warming time for celebrating the birth of Jesus, continuing meaningful Christmas traditions, and spending time with the people we love the most…our families. If you’re like me, you can’t wait for the family to assemble, to enjoy fellowship around the table, the giving of gifts, and the making of memories. It’s all so exciting!

But amidst the multitude of people who embrace the holidays and look forward with anticipation to all that come with them, there are people who are hurting because their loved ones aren’t here any longer. For many, the holidays are looked upon with dread because they only magnify the grief and pain they feel over the loss of a husband, a wife, a son, a daughter, a parent, a friend or a neighbor. They hurt because their holiday memories and experiences are attached to that loved one. Every significant and meaningful Christmas experience was celebrated alongside the one they loved. And now they’re gone. And now the motivation and anticipation for Christmas is gone, too.

What can a LIFE Group do to minister to those who are hurting during the holidays? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be Present. The holidays are busy and that’s one of the reasons people struggle during the holidays. They feel forgotten and alone. The busier everyone else is, the more alone they feel. Be sensitive to this and be present with them as much as you can. Connect with them via text message or email or phone call. Take them to lunch. Give special attention to them, especially those whose loss is so fresh. Your presence may have a healing effect on them.
  • Be Prayerful. Pray FOR them, that God would grant them a peace that surpasses all understanding and that their holiday season would be filled with warm, new memories that contribute to their healing. Consider praying WITH them, that God would grant them comfort in their sorrow. Interceding on behalf of a LIFE Group member who has lost a loved one is one of the most important things you can do. Send them a card and tell them you remember them and are praying for them.
  • Be Sensitive. As you’re planning parties and family get-togethers and describing the joy that you will experience through those occasions, be sensitive to the ones who may not be experiencing the same excitement as you. I’m not saying to temper your excitement as not to make someone else feel bad. I’m saying to show a godly discernment in talking about those things that takes into account the person’s pain and hurt.
  • Be Proactive. Reach out to them. Initiate and ask if there’s anything you can do that will make a significant difference to them during the holidays. What can you provide that would impact them and bring comfort to them during the season? A meal? Flowers?

Setting Goals for Your LIFE Group

By Jay Fennell

You probably have a lot of experience setting goals in your life. Professional goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, relationship goals…but have you ever, as a LIFE group leader, thought about establishing goals for your LIFE group? Have you ever stopped to consider what God might want to accomplish through your LIFE group this year? Goals are important. They give us direction and purpose. As we wind down the calendar year and prepare for the New Year, it’s a great time to begin praying and thinking about goals for your LIFE group.

Some of you might be thinking…is goal setting unspiritual? I’ve heard some leaders say, “I just allow the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do in my group, so I don’t make any plans like that.” I agree that we should not simply make our own plans, but instead should be receptive to God-centered, God-sized plans. And that takes diligent prayer to discover how God wants to work and what He wants to accomplish in your group. After all, the group you lead belongs to Him. The people in your group are His, and you are simply a steward of the group at the moment.

But Jesus was a planner. When he called his followers he told them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This little statement contains both Jesus’ goal and his three-year plan for his disciples. The Goal: for them to become fishers of men. The Plan: to follow Him. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said to the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” The Goal: for the gospel to reach Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the whole earth. The Plan: To be his witnesses through the Holy Spirit’s power. It’s okay to set goals, but they must be the goals that God wants for your group.

So what does that look like in your group at Brentwood Baptist? Well, you know that our groups are defined by 4 functions expressed by the acronym L.I.F.E.

  • L stands for Loving one another.
  • I stands for Involving ourselves in community.
  • F stands for Focusing on God’s Word.
  • And E stands for Engaging the World.

So what would it look like, in the New Year, to establish one goal under each one of these functions? For example, under Loving one another, you might want to notice that you have group members who have fallen away, people you haven’t seen in a while. And you notice that there isn’t a mechanism to follow up with people that have fallen away. Maybe a goal that could be established is to develop a system or appoint a person who will take the lead in reaching out to group members who have fallen away. Maybe the goal is to reach out to group members who have missed 3 times in a row.  If you could accomplish this goal, your group would improve the way they are loving one another. I encourage you to do this with each one of the functions of a LIFE Group, to establish goals that will help your group become healthier and more effective in helping people move toward Christlikeness.

You’ve probably heard it said before, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Take some time now to pray and ask yourself the question, “What does God want to accomplish in my LIFE group this year?”