I'm 4 weeks into leading our first Growth Group and here are a few reflections so far. . .
- It's challenging. I'm a pastor. What I do is talk to people and work with people. But I'm surprised how much leading a Growth Group has stretched me. It gives me great empathy for our 30 other Growth Group leaders, their commitment and vulnerability in leading. We do lots of spiritual things with each other and next to each other, but to turn toward each other and process spiritual things and our faith together . . . that's really a stretch for most of us. It's challenging for everyone to get there. It's challenging to manage the time--it goes so fast. It's challenging to host and lead.
- It's a commitment. Just setting aside the time each week is a commitment. One more thing in our already busy lives. Hosting is a commitment. It's impossible not to clean-up a little bit. Having 25+ people in your home each week necessitates some clean up afterward. I've been making soup each week. Others have been bringing side-dishes each week. This, too, is a commitment. We have to plan for this. We have to plan around this.
- It's intimate. It's vulnerable for anyone and everyone to open up your life, struggles, faith and doubts to other people. To ask for prayer and be prayed for. This involves ongoing risk taking.
- It takes time. Our group is connecting much more naturally in week 4 than we did in week 1. There is definitely a life-cycle to these groups. Week 1 was frustrating and felt forced. But already by week 4, I feel like we know what's happening in one another's lives and are jumping right in with one another.
- It requires God working. If our group or any group is going to go, God must show up. God must work in our regular gathering. He's got to enable us to take risks and open up to one another. He's got to help us keep the commitment. He's got to lead and guide and illumine the word. He's got to help and give wisdom and discernment and spiritual freshness to Growth Group leaders. Because of the aforementioned factors, He's got to make it happen. I realize I can't make this group go or these people grow apart from Him. I have prayed hard for our group. I've prayed harder and more consistently than ever for our 30 Growth Groups and their leaders.
- It's a rhythm. It's so easy to think of our lives as shaped by events and purchases. I think rhythms and practices shape us. Rhythms and practices are more subtle and go deeper and take longer. I see our weekly Growth Group as a life-shaping practice. It's not about any one week, but about connecting and practicing gathering with God's people.
- It's so worth it. Though it's a lot of work and challenging, I look forward to our group each week. It's been so sweet sharing a meal together weekly and having kids present with us. It feels like these families are, in a small way, living life together. I expect this feeling will only grow. I'm more convinced than ever, that this is what life is about and this is how God intends for us to live. Our Growth Group is a lab where we're working in and working out and applying the Gospel.
Leading a Growth Group is one of a couple of things that has kept me away from blogging recently. That's a good thing. Less electronic and more real life.
I'd love to hear some thoughts from others of you who are in Growth Groups here at Grace this Spring. Share your experience. Share some encouragement or even a challenge. . . .