Refresh the Vision for Life Groups
Life Groups are groups of 3–5 men or 3–5 women who meet together for personal discipleship. Like everything else at Cities Church, this grows out of our mission to make disciples. Specifically, Life Groups are an extension of who we are as disciples, and of what it means to make disciples.
When it comes to who we are as disciples, Life Groups are the part of our church structure where we are intentional about living out our identity as servants like Jesus (as disciples we are worshipers, servants, and missionaries). Life Groups are the place where we serve others in personal discipleship.
When it comes to what it means to makes disciples, Life Groups are the part of our mission where we make disciples in depth. Discipleship involves baptizing and teaching — conversion and counsel, multiplying and maturing. Life Groups are the place where we learn together to obey all of Jesus’s commands.
Review the Changes to Life Groups
When we launched Cities Church in January 2015, we already had a vision for Life Groups (because we planted with a mission to make disciples). Having the vision, then, we started with a set number of people — just three Community Groups — and so we assigned the Life Groups and got rolling. Now we have twelve Community Groups. As we have experienced steady growth and multiplied groups in 2015, we felt those birth pains most in our Life Groups. Well, we want to continue to grow — to make disciples and multiply Community Groups — and now that we know a little more about how these think go, and feel, we need to bring our Life Groups up to speed. Here are three changes to Life Groups that will be worked into the mix in 2016.
1. We will offer regular training to Life Group point-persons.
We say point-persons because we see Life Groups as mutual discipleship. It is not designed to be mentor-mentee. We are all together in this, walking together, following Jesus together, serving one another together. Up to this point, we have left the actual details of Life Group meetings very flexible. We’ve basically just said to “go have level-three conversation.” That has worked some places, but it is not working best overall. So we want to do a better job of providing some structure to Life Group time together. We’ve written some stuff for the website (also here, here, and here) — but we want to do more in connecting that to our groups. Therefore, the plan is to start having real-life training, talking, brainstorming, about how we can best serve one another in Life Groups.
Mark your calendars, Life Group point-persons. On Sunday night, February 28, 2016, at Minneahaha Academy Upper School, we are having our first Life Group point-person training night. It’ll start at 6PM.
2. We will not assign Life Groups (at least not right away)
The best way I can think of to explain this change goes like this: When we planted with a set number of people, we had to fit our members into our structure; now that we have grown as church, we priority is to adapt our structure to serve our members. So, as new Community Groups (CGs) are starting, we are not going to place you in a Life Group right away. Instead, we will spend some time getting to know one another, building relationship, sharing stories, both within your CG and in the church as a whole. You will be encouraged to start a Life Group or join a new Life Group on your own (with any members from Cities, either in your CG or in another CG). If you need a little help in forming a Life Group. your CG leader can help get one started.
3. Life Groups will operate on a six-month schedule.
This has been in the picture since we launched, but we never set any dates and we spent so much of last rearranging Life Groups that it didn’t make any sense. We want to give you the option to stay in Life Groups if you want, or to reconfigure Life Groups if organic friendships emerge within the church outside your group. For example, say I’m in a Life Group with Kyle, and while we are in this group, I become good friends with Mike, and we see each other every day at the gym, and have a lot in common. We are both in different Life Groups but we think, “Man, it would make sense for us to be in Life Groups together. Let’s start a new Life Group.”
Well, there will be two windows throughout the year to start new Life Groups: in April (going through September); or in October (going through March). This means Life Groups will span six months. You can stay in the same Life Groups as long as you want, but you are never “stuck in a group.” You have the option to start a new Life Group if that makes most sense.
Redirect the Expectations of Life Groups
This is maybe the most important thing to say. We as pastors want to help Life Groups not just in the mechanics of how they work, but also in how we think about them.
First, Life Groups are like fingerprints, they each are different.
Even as we move toward a shared structure to our Life Group meetings, each Life Group is still going to be different — because we as individuals are different and we are at different places in our journey of discipleship. So, expect your Life Group to be different from past small groups or accountability huddles you’ve been part of. And I think that is something even to celebrate.
Second, Life Groups require the long view.
In other words, we need to be patient. If we come in with too many high expectations, or wish-dreams as Bonhoeffer would say, then we’re going to be disappointed with how slow we think our Life Group is moving along. The goal is not to become BFFs, but to help one another follow Jesus. So take a deep breath and give it some time. We don’t prefer you hop Life Groups after every six months. Stick it out, invest, have the long view.
Third, Life Groups are about serving, not being served.
We come to Life Groups to serve others. It is where we wash others’ feet (metaphorically). If everyone in the Life Groups comes to serve one another then everyone will be served. And sometimes, yes, there are specific needs or crises that will require the entire Life Group to rally around it, and give all of their time to it, and that will be okay with us if we come looking to serve others, not mainly to be served ourselves.
That is what Jesus did for us. “He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) — and the more we know him and become like him, the more we will be able to serve others with his heart.