Buckle-up...next to Christ and my family, this is probably the topic I am most passionate about!
We're in the midst of launching life groups at our church. Although, some may also refer to these as cell groups or small groups, they all come from the same concept: people meeting together regularly to do life, and grow in life, together. Why commit to a life group? Allow me to respond in my favorite method: story...
Twenty-two years ago I joined my first small group. It was the first-ever ladies' Bible study group at the church Ben & I grew up in. We met weekly on a weekday evening for about an hour and a half. Week after week, Nancy (who had just moved back to NJ after her college graduation), walked into our church basement ready to lead with a pile of books in hand: study Bible, small group Bible commentary, and study workbook. A group of about 15-20 women of ages varying from 18 to 50, we sat around a long rectangular table. Every week we had passages to read and questions to answer for our meeting night; every week we'd share our answers and include our thoughts and experiences into our responses. It was amazing to hear what was shared from these women, and after many years of doing church together, get to know them as more than a face and a hello. I learned to study God's word in the midst of learning to deeply value the people around me. The two years we met together were life-changing.
A year after Ben & I were married, we knew the Lord was calling us to leave the only church home we'd known in order to commit to a new church body. We knew exactly where He wanted us before we set foot through its front doors. I had one prayer request - a small group ladies' Bible study that I could be a part of. Well, in those first two Sundays at our new church, I met several women - one who invited us over to her home for a Valentine's Day social, and was also part of a newly formed Bible study group with these several women. They invited me to attend their weekly Monday night meeting; and I, of course, said YES!! In the two years we met together, we went through several workbooks that helped us dig into the pages of God's Word, shared prayer requests together, and both laughed and cried through life's victories and our difficulties. There was a bond formed with these ladies that 15 years later is still difficult to forget.
Soon after this small group ended, I gave birth to the first of my three babies. It was the season of life I had dreamed and waited for since I was a child! BUT, I never expected the alternating moments of highest highs and lowest lows that came with it. Finding some ugly parts of me (that I thought were long-lost) returned in the midst of sleep depravation as well as a sense of loneliness, unearthed a conviction of: "I can't be the only one." So, in month 3, thanks to a reminder from a friend with pre-K aged children, I found my local MOPS group. I walked into the gym of a local church that February morning and breathed a sigh relief as I found a roomful of young moms, decorated tables with breakfast waiting, and tables set apart for group discussion. Our mentor mom shared been-there-done-that wisdom. I listened, absorbed, ate, chatted, received new life for my new motherhood journey...and fell deeply in love with my baby and my new role. The following year, I felt that I needed to give back. So, I became a Discussion Group Leader and have continued to serve at MOPS in various other roles ever since. Here, all of my parts from childhood to adulthood have come together to serve and grow in Christ with life-giving joy!
A few weeks after my third baby was born, my good friend Ashley brought over a wooden crate filled with an amazing homemade meal that included salad, diner, rolls, and dessert! As we talked that evening, she asked my opinion about starting a couples' small group at our church. I shared that I'd been thinking of something similar. There was that guy we knew that often wavered in His faith; I thought maybe his getting grounded with a few other couples in our church could help him become consistent. We decided to share our idea with our husbands. Surprisingly, an opportunity to start a Family Life Homebuilders study immediately followed! We spoke to our pastor, and two months later we started meeting every two weeks at our house with two additional families. Today, 9 1/2 years later, we've adjusted and readjusted to our situations and schedules, but continue to meet as a couples' fellowship & Bible study group. We've read books, watched video series, and discussed marriage and parenting. We've prayed for each other, walked each other through difficult health diagnoses, shared many dinners, and have even hosted family game nights. Our kids have grown together, we have gotten to know each other, and new friendships have been forged through these meetings. Persevering through the difficulties of change and commitments have been well-worth this life-giving opportunity.
HERE'S THE SIMPLE TRUTH: God created the world, then He created man. He created us for His good pleasure, and to enjoy unbroken relationship with Him and each other. The problem: man sinned; he disobeyed His plan. That sin separated us from Him, and ultimately brought tension into our human relationships as well. So, He immediately put a corrective plan into action...to send Himself in the form of His Son to die, and through His death bridge that separation so that we would once again be able to enjoy unbroken relationship with the Father and each other. Life groups help us accomplish the goal of unbroken relationships with God and each other. They help me stay sane and maintain a pattern of a growing relationship with Christ. I will not do life without one.
If you haven't done so already, I'd like to invite you to find a life-giving group in your area that fits into the details of your life.