WHY LIFE GROUPS?
Have you ever walked into a building full of people, looking for connection, and left still feeling lonely? I have. It's hard. Some people call it discouraging.
Others call it church. We say it's unnecessary!
Here at Metro, we have thousands of people who come through our doors each week...many of whom are experiencing church, or at least our church, for the very first time. They enjoy the experience, but something is still missing. Just like you, they want something deeper.. something more personal and real. Even more, they need that something.
Life was not meant to be lived alone. That's where life groups come in! When we look at the early church, we get a picture of small communities of people who followed Jesus together. These followers met by the thousands in the temple courts, as well as smaller groups within homes.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold properly and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
From the beginning of the Church, "Life Groups" was a way of life. Their relationships with one another were critical to their pursuit of Jesus, their growth in Christ, and their ability to share with those around them. It would be impossible to experience a biblical community apart from spiritually significant relationships with other believers. Life Groups, therefore, are an integral part of "being" the church and not just "doing" church.
Therefore, we have a mission...
Our mission is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus by creating a smaller group environment where people Grow, Group, and Go together.
At Metro, life groups provide a place to experience life the way God intended it. They help create a community where people can take their next steps with God. These groups are made up of about 1O people who meet on a regular basis to unpack the weekend message and/or Scripture through study and open conversation. Our goal is to offer Life Groups in every community to accommodate different life stages and schedules.
LIFE GROUP STRATEGY
We Grow, Group, and Go through Life Groups which promote Christ-centered relationships that involve biblical discussion, prayer, and personal care in a small group environment that leads to serving and reaching.
To be more specific, the 3G's look like this:
Biblical discussion is centered around the study and application of God's Word (see Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 8:29). The discussion may include Scripture from the Weekend Experience ATM (After the Message discussion guide e-mailed to all LG Leaders), a biblically based book, or an approved Bible Study. The materials used should be approved by the life group staff. Also, and most importantly, the whole group should pray with and for one another.
Meet at least twice a month. Open up to each other through honesty and vulnerability. Allow others to be a part of your life. Share your strengths and weaknesses. Invite each other to encourage and rebuke you in love. Be together!
Put your faith into action by serving and reaching one another, the rest of the church body at Metro, your community, and the world. Love one another with personal care by encouragement, visiting in times of need or celebration, and offering biblicar'truth and advice. Serve in the church together (or at least share your experiences) through serving teams. Reach the community and world through REACH:local and REACH:global. You may not go to Africa together, but the experiences should be shared through prayer and support. For more details, look in Appendix: Serve, Reach, and Gather.
THE NIGHT OF LIFE GROUP
LIFE GROUP SAMPLE NIGHT
Refreshments and Connecting: 15-30 minutes
Opening Prayer: 5-10 minutes
Biblical Discussion: 45 minutes
Prayer Requests and Closing Prayer: 5-10 minutes
Worship (Music) can be an element. You know your group!
Don't rush out. If friends need to talk, and you can provide an. extra 20 minutes, it's always worth it!
HOW TO LEAD GREAT DISCUSSIONS
Lead the group into a safe, open environment where members can be honest and vulnerable. Allow others to be a part of your life. Share your strengths and weaknesses. Invite each other to encourage and challenge one another in love and prayer..
Often when we ask a question and are met with silence, there is a temptation for us (the leaders) to fill the silence with our own thoughts and answers. Silence is not always a sign of a bad question or unwillingness to share. Sometimes it means that people need more time to process what their answer will be. What feels like 10 minutes of silence to the leader is usually only 1O seconds long. The people in your group need the time to think about and process some of the tougher questions, as well as time to build up the courage to share their thoughts. Don't be afraid of silence.
Let others answer first!
It is hard to get people to open up and share when the leader is doing mostof the talking. Unless it is a specifically sensitive question with which you need to model transparency, it is a good idea to never be the first to answer. Your answer might shape the answers of the others; as they might think that what you shared is the "right" answer, or the type of answer you want to hear. Let them answer first.
Don't skip good discussion to cover all the material!
The goal is to lead a healthy conversation, not cover all the questions available each week. This is not a class with a curriculum to be covered; rather, there is a series of questions to be tackled as a group. Some of the best group meetings are the ones that only get through one or two questions because the topic is so relevant to the group members that a great discussion takes place and time does not allow for the other questions. These are the conversations that deep friendship and growth are built upon.
Be true to your group!
You know your group better than anyone else. If you know a question won't hit with your group, don't ask it. If you feel a question could be good if reworded, by all means, do so. Make it your own! You are the leader; we trust you to lead your group discussions.
Ideas - basically anything that brings people together.
Metro Events: These events are ready for you to attend!
Dinner Parties: These dinners are meant to host people that are not already part of your church community. Rather, someone in your neighborhood, office, or children's school with whom you have already made a connection. In Luke 5, we see Jesus eating with people who.are not Christ followers in hopes of gaining-a meaningful relationship with them.
Guys Night/Girls Night: Pinterest parties, fantasy football, game night, NCAA tournament parties, movie nights, etc.-these types of events allow for minimal planning but inclusion for people who may not be a part of the group and will leave no gaps for people to be left out.
Involve others- When you have an event, you want to be sure to have someone help you plan it. It is good to have someone alongside you to learn the processes so that the next time there is a gathering, they can lead others with what they have learned. This is a great experience to share with your apprentice. Even if you don't have an apprentice, figure out ways to get others involved in the planning and executing of an event. Don't just give them tasks, but let them be creative and take a little charge with their piece of the work. This is how we must involve others if they are going to lead and grow.
Evaluate- Each time we do something, we want to make sure we improve it. Each event needs to be evaluated-What went well? What was something you need to make sure happens every time or you know·not to do again? Record insights!!!
GREAT LEADERS SHARE
Step into the game: We learn best in the game. Experience will provide you with reality-tested development. Don't hesitate to step in and start learning.
Seek out training. Connect with your coach or LG director for resources. Own your growth as a leader.
Have a plan: Starting a Life Group will present challenges along the way. Leaders thrive when they start with a plan.
What is your goal for your life group?
What is a win for your life group?
Ask people you know: Your faith community should start where you are with people you know.
Invite your friends to your group.
Invite your neighbors to your group.
People you share interests with.
Relate to people: Community happens when people share relationship. Relationships happen when people feel needed and loved. Relate to people this way and authentic life change will happen.
Enjoy our connection: All this relationship talk applied to you, too. I want you to feel connected! It's so much easier to be a leader when you share connection with other leaders.
How can I best support you?
How frequently would you like to connect?
Your coaches- Ron and Angie Olsen (Angie@metrocitychurch.tv)
Be active in the group, participate in discussion, and be consistent with attendance. (Call if you are going to be absent or late.)
Share in bringing the food, hosting, planning group outings, community outreaches, etc. Everybody needs to take ownership of the group.
Create a safe place where people can be heard and feel loved. (No quick answers, snap judgments, or simple fixes.) See handout
Anything that is shared in group is strictly confidential and does not leave the group. Breaking this trust is difficult to repair.
If you have room, invite your friends to group. Welcome new people in, Be open and accepting. Don't be cliquish!
One of the main ways of building meaningful relationships is to intentionally pray for each other.
One of the main focuses of your time together is an intentional spiritual encounter. Have a time of group discussion using the ATM (after the message) questions or another Bible study. Encourage everyone to bring their Bibles to group.
HOW and WHEN TO SPLIT INTO A NEW LIFE GROUP
There is a time in the life group lifespan in which a group has grown to a "larger group" size (14+) and there is a necessity to do something to keep the relationships personal and close. There may be small groups of friends that grow and are comfortable within a large life group, but this is the exception and should be constantly evaluated.
Most often, a life group should be closed after too many people participate. Then, newer people should be allowed to form their own life group. If a group does not reorganize after reaching this size, often attendance declines, members are less committed, and accountability within deep friendships head out the window! so, close that window by closing your life group!
You should seek out an apprentice who shares interest in becoming a leader. You as the leader should make sure he/she is ready to lead. If so, discuss this with your coach and the life group staff, and they will take over from there!
Here are a few ways a new life group can be launched, pending approval:
New Leader Launch- Apprentice (and maybe a few others), leave the current group to start a new life group.
Current Leader Launch- Current leader gives the group to the apprentice and starts a new group.
Life Group Campaign- From time-to-time, Metro wili host a life group campaign with the goal of launching new groups. This is also a great way for an existing group in need of momentum, to add new participants.
From the very first day of a life group's launch, it's a good idea for the leader to be keeping his/her eyes open for an apprentice. The primary purpose is NOT to divide or multiply the group. The purpose is to have a reliable substitute. You can probably guess most of the reasons why it's beneficial to have a friend in your group that is able to lead the group in your absence. This is one of the vital elements of true leadership and "making disciples." The leader could get sick; need to attend a funeral, wedding, or special event; move; or even change jobs. In any case, "cancelling" a meeting that only happens twice a month is unnecessary. Cancelling an entire group because there is no leader can be devastating. If you have an apprentice that can take the lead for a night (or a semester), your friends and community will be better off.
Of course, a secondary purpose is to develop leaders. In some rare cases, an apprentice may be assigned to a life group to train under the leader. People are best prepared to lead through an apprenticeship model. The apprenticeship model gives the apprentice leadership responsibilities, where the leader only comes alongside to help as needed. In time, the apprentice is able to do what the leader does. The best leaders·are usually found within LG's that Metro already has because they understand what we're trying to do. Not only that, if they've been around for a while and are willing to step up into leadership, they also like what we're doing and will do their best to replicate it.
How to Lead an Apprentice
Healthy life groups develop leaders from within their group. Here are some good practices to use with your Apprentice:
Communicate with your group the desire to equip a substitute leader from within the group: Realize this sounds intimidating to 90% of the human population!
Once you see someone with leadership potential, communicate with theni your desire to apprentice them.
Spend time meeting together before or outside of LG gatherings.
Delegate more and more of the life group experience to the apprentice using the following teaching method:
I do, you watch, we talk.
I do, you help, we talk.
You do, I help, We talk.
You do, I watch, we talk.
You do, someone-else watches.
LIFE GROUP LEADERSHIP CRITERIA & DESCRIPTION
Metro City Church (MCC) is committed to supporting the growth of authentic Christ-centered leaders. Serving in leadership is a privilege and should be taken seriously. MCC is committed to doing everything possible to help you succeed in your leadership role!
Before stepping up to lead others, we must first learn to lead ourselves well. The following are necessary for someone to be considered for leadership:
1. CHARACTER EXPECTATIONS FOR LIFE GROUP LEADERS
"... set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (I Timothy 4:12-13)
Have a personal, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Recognize the Bible as the highest authority.
Have the time, emotional capacity, and moral discernment to lead a group.
Agree with (and stay faithful to) the mission, vision·, and values of MCC.
Married- love your spouse, speak affirming words, etc.
Single- healthy dating boundaries, purity, etc.
Parenting- love your kids, talk positively about them, discerning, etc.
Have a lifestyle of servanthood, generosity, joy and prayer.
Have a growing passion to shepherd others and help create healthy, Biblical community.
Christian character is vital to the health of the overall health of life groups.
Leaders must demonstrate a growing faithfulness to Jesus and His mission. This doesn't mean that you are perfect in your Christian walk, but it does mean that you are taking the next steps in your relationship with Him.
2. THE LEADER AGREES WITH MCC's STATEMENT OF FAITH AND CORE BELIEFS, AS OUTLINED BELOW.
MCC is built on seven pillars of the Christian faith. You can think of these as ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS or building blocks to our faith. Anyone who wishes to understand what drives this ministry, must first have a grasp of what we believe about God, His Son, the Holy Spirit, and His Word. These pillars are not all-inclusive of our beliefs but explain the essentials of faith.
We believe the Bible to be the only infallible, authoritative Word of God, in its original text.
We believe there is only one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We believe that Jesus was God made flesh, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His substitutional and atoning death through His shed blood (simply put,Jesus took our rightful place on the cross in order to pay for our sins). We believe in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, and in His personal return in power and glory to Earth.
We believe that man was created in the image of God, but fell into sin by willful choice and is, therefore, spiritually lost and separated from a personal relationship with God. It is only through renewal by the Holy Spirit that salvation can be obtained. Salvation is a free gift of God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that begins with repentance of sin and accepting Jesus into one's life as Lord and Savior, Leader and Forgiver. The works of man cannot earn salvation.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, Whose work is to bring man to repentance and by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a Godly life.
We believe in the eventual resurrection ofthe dead for both the Christian and the non Christian. Those who are in Christ will be resurrected for eternal life in Heaven with God, and those who are not Christian will be resurrected for eternal life in Hell, separated from God.
We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in and through our Lord Jesus.
In Essentials, UNITY
In Non-Essentials, LIBERTY
In All Things, CHARITY
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
MCC is based on three important principles... the Message, the Medium, and the Messengers. These principles directly support our vision, mission and strategy. We are committed to operating both corporately and individually, in a way that reflects these guiding principles.
The Bible is our standard for all belief, instruction, practice and policy. It is from the Bible that we receive insight into spiritual truth that results in a life that pleases God. This spiritual truth permeates our whole lives and is focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Our Biblical beliefs are not for sale, nor are they dependent on affirmation or acceptance by the culture in which we live. (Galatians 1:11-12, Romans 1:16, II Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12)
We are determined to deliver quality in all our presentations. We believe that quality honors God. (I Corinthians 3:13)
We will always strive not to bore our attendees and participants with staleness. (Genesis 1:1- 31, Exodus 31:1-3)
We will seek to be reliable and accurate in all our activities, communications, and presentations. (Matthew 5:37, II Peter 1:15, I John 1:1-3)
We will express our faith with a balance of head and..heart, intellect and emotion. (Galatians 4:18)
We cannot do our work without a staff fully committed to Jesus Christ and His ministry. (Matthew 12:30)
We fully acknowledge that we are far from perfect; however, in all things and in all ways, our leaders must display an authentic pursuit of God and His holiness.
BELIEFS REGARDING LEADERSHIP
Character is more important than talent.
We will make every effort to avoid harming the cause of Christ by word, action, or appearance, whether accidental or intentional. (II Corinthians 4:1-2)
We recognize and encourage the God-given gifts in women as well as in men, following Scriptural guidelines. (Joel 2:28-29, Genesis 1:26-27)
We recognize that power is dangerous and that those in leadership must be careful not to misuse, or take lightly, any authority they hold. (I Peter 5:2-3)
All staff and church leaders must strive to adhere to the fundamental qualifications for leadership laid out in I Timothy 3 and I Peter 5.
THE LEADER MUST BE COMMITTED TO LIVING AND HELPING TO FOSTER AUTHENTIC BIBLICAL COMMUNITY.
Proactively pursue your group members!
Prepare well for meetings, making the Bible the textbook for all discipleship.
Facilitate the growth of relationships among group members within your group. It's best to meet at least twice a month, for consistency and continuity. Add social gatherings if you can!
Lead the group into Biblical discussion by cultivating conversation around Scripture. You don't have to be a Bible scholar or teacher! You only need to facilitate discussion. You use a Biblically-based book, video study, or other approved material. Feel free to check out the Life Group Resource Library in the Metro City App. Any materials used, that are not found in the Life Group Resource Library or MCC's Journey Store, must be approved by the Life Group Director.
Deal with difficult situations within your group in a Godly and timely manner, following Scriptural principles.
Your Coach will communicate with you regularly about the health of your group, apprentice status, and any other needs. It's possible that some issues will surface in your group or in a member's life that are beyond your experience, expertise, or comfort zone. In that case, communicate your concerns to your Coach, then Director, if necessary, for guidance and additional help.
Monitor the group's health and duration. Promote participation and ownership among group members.
Encourage members to share group responsibilities! Build ownership among your group by giving different roles to those willing to assume them. (For example, prayer requests, meal planning, etc.)
Encourage members to invite the unconnected at Metro into your group.
Cultivate a safe place where people can be real and honest with each other. Stress confidentiality! "What happens at group, stays at group!"
Create and keep a drug-free environment. At Metro, we have a policy to keep drugs and alcohol away from our gatherings. We understand that "freedom" for some people brings "bondage" to others. In order to love our brother, we keep drugs out of sight and use. (Romans 14)
Identify and recruit an Apprentice Leader. The best leaders are those that reproduce themselves. God has equipped you to extend your leadership beyond yourself, to pass down what He has done in your life. Being intentional to equip an Apprentice is how we do this!
Make sure you pray with (and for) your life group, with passion and an open heart on an on going basis.