Being blessed, by blessing others…

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As we come upon the end of our Beatitudes series, let’s recap some of what Jesus has taught us.

 

Week 1

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Week 2

Blessed are those who mourn,

   for they will be comforted.

Week 3

Blessed are the meek,

   for they will inherit the earth.

Week 4

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

   for they will be filled.

Week 5

Blessed are the merciful,

   for they will be shown mercy.

Week 6

Blessed are the pure in heart,

   for they will see God.

Week 7

Blessed are the peacemakers,

   for they will be called children of God.

 

Next week will be…

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

God has shown us, that living in the Kingdom looks so much different than anything we could ever imagine. In fact, some might call it “The upside-down Kingdom”, because it is so opposite of our culture.

 For that reason, we want to encourage you to do a simple exercise this coming week.

How about doing something that is opposite of our culture, something special for someone else…anonymously?

 Your LIFE Group is a safe place to share about who you are, what you have been through, and where God is leading you. Because of your feedback, we know there has been much healing taking place in your groups, so as your group comes to an end in the next couple of weeks, there is something we would like to encourage you to do.

 This week, have everyone write his or her names on a small piece of paper and fold it in half. Next, have each group member draw a name, but be sure they do not share it with anyone else, and they are not allowed to pick their own name.

Next, take blank index cards (dollar tree or .99 cent store) and pass them out to your group members. Have them take the cards home and write a small letter, telling the person whom they picked, how they have blessed them through this series. You must stress to them that they are to remain anonymous. In other words, the person writing the letter of encouragement does not write his or her own name on it, only the name of the recipient.

 Have them bring their index cards to the group the following week and hand them to you, the leader. You will then disperse the cards amongst your group, to their rightful owner. Be sure to do this at the end of your group time, give them a few minutes to read their cards and end with prayer.

 There is nothing more encouraging than the word of God in our lives. The next best thing is to receive comfort and encouragement from one another. Jesus brings comfort to those who need it most. He has given us a responsibility to live out our lives in the context of community, because it is in community that we experience spiritual growth.

 

Be Blessed and Bless others!

 

In His name, 

LIFE Groups Staff

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Leader Lifter: They Keep Talking and They Won’t Stop

Leader Lifter: They Keep Talking and They Won’t Stop
Do you have a discussion dominator in your group? They answer every question. They dominate the discussion. You secretly hope that they won’t come back. But, the fear is that the rest of the group might leave. What do you do?
This is a tough one, because you want people to open up and share. Unfortunately, some people aren’t self-aware enough to realize that no one else is talking and that the group is not all about them. I know this guy. I’ve been this guy. Here’s how to deal with me, I mean, him.
1. Take a deep breath. This isn’t going to be the showdown at the O.K. Corral. Jesus is with you. He wants them to stop talking too.
2. Drop a hint. After two or three questions, if your big talker keeps chiming in and dominating the discussion, say something like this: “Okay, some of you have been kind of quiet so far, let’s hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet.” In small group language, this means “shut up, blabbermouth,” but we are too kind and relational to actually say that. For most big talkers, this should work.
3. Don’t look them in the eye. When you ask the next question, intentionally avoid eye contact with your big talker. Look at other people. Pray that they will open their mouths. By avoiding eye contact, you discourage the big talker from speaking up.
4. If they still don’t get it: Next time, sit by the big talker. Intentionally place yourself right next to the person. First of all, this avoids direct eye contact, because you can’t really do that without the risk of a neck injury.
5. The Nuclear Option. If after using these tactics for a couple of meetings and the big talker still hasn’t changed, it’s time to have “the talk.” It goes something like this: “Have you noticed that some of the folks in our group don’t talk very much? Would you help me draw some of those folks into the conversation? Here’s what I need. Let’s wait until a couple of our quieter folks have shared with the group before you jump in. You have some great things to say, but we need to make sure that everyone gets their word in.
Here is what I suspect about your big talker. He or she probably has a leadership gift, a teaching gift or a neurotic personality (I’m not joking). If she is a leader, then with the right coaching, she could probably lead her own group one day. She just needs to be directed toward the right behavior in group.
If the person constantly talks about himself and completely dominates the discussion, even after you’ve exercised the Nuclear Option, then you might have a big problem on your hands. “The term ‘neurotic disorder’ is used to loosely describe a range of conditions that involve an inability to adapt to the surrounding environment.” This where you remember what your LIFE Group Pastors shared with you at the launch or training, “We are here for you.” If you need more help with your big talker please don’t hesitate to contact us, we will be more than happy to help.
While small groups are a place to share and to support each other, leaders must be conscious of how the behavior of one member can affect the entire group. Work with your big talkers. Your small group will thank you.

Leader Lifter: Top Ways To Find New Group Members

Leader Lifter: Top Ways To Find New Group Members

Who makes the best new members for your group? That’s easy. Unconnected people with whom you are actively building a relationship. Here are some ideas that will help you find new members:

. Look for people who are already doing the same things you are. If your kids are in High School, make it a point to get to know other parents. If your kids are younger…make it a point to meet other parents as you check them in to Sunday School. Whether you’re on a softball team, do scrapbooking, or regularly watch your kids’ little league games…be on the lookout for people who are already doing the same things that you are.
. If you sit in the same area at the same service every week, you’ll often begin to notice some of the same people. Get in the habit of getting to know one or two new people every week. In the “say hello to a few people around you” part of the service…make it a point to remember their names. Write their name(s) down as soon as you sit down. As the service ends tell them you’ll see them next week.
. Take a few minutes in your next meeting to talk about who your members know that would be a good fit in your group. It’s a good idea to talk through the Circles of Life page at the end of the first lesson in your study guide. Sometimes all you need is something to jog your memory.
. Plan a social get-together (potluck, cookout, theme dinner, chili cookoff, etc.) and invite unconnected friends over. This is a great idea to schedule on a regular basis between studies. The perfect way to get to know a few new people.
. Volunteer to serve at your membership class. Think about it. Everyone at the class is taking a next step…the perfect time to join a small group.
. Volunteer to serve as an usher or greeter. You’ll see a lot of the same people. Easy to be friendly and invite them to your group.
. Volunteer to serve at the small group counter in your lobby. You’ll have first crack at the people looking for a group! How cool is that!
. Volunteer to serve with…(see a pattern developing? almost any volunteer opportunity will put you in contact with unconnected people).
. Make sure your group is absolutely, positively, up-to-date online. Make sure its marked public and that there are open spots.

Leader Lifter: How Can I Get My Members to Talk?

Leader Lifter: How Can I Get My Members to Talk?
By Allen White
After so many questions about dealing with difficult people in groups, I’m tempted to say, “Count your blessings.” But, we do want everyone to get involved in the group discussion. The most significant gift that we can give another person is our full attention and a listening ear. There are several reasons why your group members may not be talking.
1. How large is your group? Quiet people tend to disappear in large groups. The quick solution is to make your group smaller. If your group has more than eight people, then sub-group during the discussion. I do this with my group that meets in a restaurant. When it’s time for the discussion, we divide it down the middle. One half of the table turns toward each other to discuss, and the other half does the same. It works. Everybody can get their word in.
Another way to get quieter folks to talk during the discussion is called “Neighbor Nudging.” It goes like this: “Okay, on this next question, turn to the person next to you and discuss it, then we’ll come back together again.” Every person is at least talking to one other person.
If your small group is beginning to look like a small church, it might be time to think about sub-grouping on a permanent basis.
2. Who tends to answer first? If your more talkative members are the first to answer every question, then it’s time to have a conversation with them. If someone is dominating the conversation, then your quieter members won’t try to enter in.
If you, as the leader, are the first to answer the questions, stop it. Count to 10. Count to 100. Give your group an opportunity to answer. If you answer every question, the discussion will be inhibited because you have gone from facilitating to teaching. The teaching gift is awesome, if you have a class. Your small group is not a class.
3. Get comfortable with silence. Silence is deafening. We don’t talk about awkward noise. It’s awkward silence. But, in your small group, silence is golden. It allows people to think. Silence also allows reluctant people to finally chime in.
4. Assume that your members didn’t prepare. We used to say that statistically half of group members do homework and half don’t. These days I think far fewer group members prepare for the meeting. Don’t get on your soapbox, just go with it. As the leader, you’ve looked over the questions and thought about the answers. Since your group members are coming in cold, they will need a little time to think about the answers and respond. Allow for a little thinking time. Refer back to #3.
5. Talk to Your Quiet Members Post-Meeting. If they didn’t have anything to say during the meeting, talk to them about the topic after the meeting. Hear what they think. Give them positive feedback about what they have to say. (Don’t lie.) “That’s a really good point. Wow, I wish you would have shared that with the group.” Each touch will build their confidence to participate in the group.
The last thing you want in small group is yet another environment where someone can’t get their word in. The early church met in temple courts and house to house (Acts 5:42). The large gathering was informational and inspirational. The smaller gathering was interactive.
How are you going to help your quieter group members this week?

5 “M’s” Every Leader Needs To Know

1. Minister to the needs of your members.

Okay, so that may seem obvious, but one of the critical roles of a small group leader is to shepherd the people in your group. Does the word “shepherd” scare you? It shouldn’t. God has provided you with the gifts and abilities to care for those in your small group.

In a healthy small group, the members, as well as the leaders, must be “healthy.” In fact, I would say that the success of your small group depends on its health. A healthy small group integrates all 5 biblical purposes into its life (for more information on the 5 biblical purposes, click here), but it’s the leader’s job to establish the biblical purpose of “fellowship” within the first few weeks of your group’s existence.

As the small group leader, you need to pray for and “love on” each member of the group. That means making sure people feel connected with other members in the group, being attentive to what people say in the group – perhaps, for example, you may sense after the first several meetings that one couple in the group is struggling in their marriage. Your job as a leader is to pray for them. After you develop a deeper friendship with the couple, you may even suggest talking to a pastor or Christian counselor.

My point, simply, is that as the shepherd of the small group you need “eyes” to see the needs of your group.

2. Mentor their spiritual maturity.

An effective small group leader seeks to cultivate the spiritual habits of his or her group.

And how do you do that?

You must first know the condition of your “sheep”-those under your care. In the back of your mind, as you lead the group, you need to ask this for each person in the group, “What is the next step in his or her spiritual maturity?”

For an unmarried couple who is living together, they need to get married! That’s their next logical step in obedience to Christ. For others, it may be baptism. Others may need to learn how to give or focus on their family or attend church more regularly or step up their service in the church or community.

3. Motivate the “shape” (spiritual gifts) of your members for ministry.

You, as the leader of the group, must model this principle. It’s the “trickle down” approach to spiritual maturity. What your members see in you is what they begin to emulate in their lives.

Do your members know what your spiritual gifts are? Do they know you have the gift of leadership? Have you described to them your pathway in becoming a small group leader?

Are your group members growing in their gifts? Where are they serving now? Where should they be serving in 6 months or a year?

One of the key “shepherding” functions of a small group leader is to motivate each member to harness his or her spiritual gifts for service in God’s kingdom.

4. Multiply the life and mission of your members.

It’s not enough for your members to stay members. Every member must become a multiplier—to multiply their life through passing on the faith to others, through starting a new small group, through training others to assist in the development of the small group.

As a small group leader, your vision must be to see your group collectively—and its members individually—to take the next logical step in development. There must always be movement—growth towards reaching the mission of God’s kingdom.

That may mean training another set of leaders to launch another small group. Or it may mean making sure the “empty chair” is always filled. Or, it may mean that you challenge group members to make a difference in their daily lives or profession.

Your role is to pour your life into your group members, so that they will pour their lives into others.

5. Model a surrendered heart.

Pride and arrogance and worldly leadership have no place in a small group. Never forget that what is happening in your group is the work of God Almighty. Not you.

If your leadership is effective, if your shepherding is making a difference in the lives of your members, expect spiritual warfare. That is, expect conflict, struggles, and trials. Satan loves to strangle healthy small groups through, for example, petty conflicts among members.

That’s when you, the leader, need most to model a surrendered, humble attitude.

God works best in our weakness—when things are blowing apart—that’s when God is strong. What is your Isaac? That is, what do you need to lay down on the altar to be consumed by the fire of God’s presence? God loves the confessions and prayers of a broken and contrite heart. Worship God no matter what your circumstances with a thankful and hopeful heart. Your soul—and the very health of your small group—is at stake.

Power Boost

By Bahram Khayatpour

I think all of us have good plans for our lives. We want to be good people and do amazing things but somewhere along the journey of life, we come to a point where we feel powerless to actually do the things we want to do and become the people we want to be. This is not anything new. In fact, it seems to be the human condition from the beginning of time. There have always been people who wanted good things however they lacked the power. This had been the norm throughout history…UNTIL about two thousand years ago there was a community of people. They were followers of a certain Rabbi named Jesus. This Jesus, would walk around telling this community they kind of people they can be and the good things they can accomplish. For about 3 years they lived, ate, slept and did life together. Everything was going well for this community until one day the unthinkable happened. Their Rabbi was arrested. He was beaten. And finally he was crucified on a cross and laid in a tomb.

This community was shattered. They once again came to the conclusion that they lacked the power to be the people they wanted to be. They even stopped pursuing the life they had been working towards the last 3 years and went back to their old way of life. THEN something incredible happened. These people started to live differently. They started to live differently. They had passion and confidence. When people asked what had changed they had an amazing answer. These people believed that their Rabbi had actually been raised from the dead. And not only that, they believed that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead actually lived within them. They actually believed that! And they started living differently. They actually believed that they now had the power to live the lives and become the people they wanted to be. And guess what? They did it. They actually lived it out! And in the process they changed the course of human history.

My question is simple. Today there are many more people who claim to have the same spirit within them that this community did. How come we are not having the same impact as they did? Could it be that we don’t actually believe it like they did? Could it be that we may read it in our Bibles and hear it in sermons but we don’t really believe? And here is the real question, what if we started to believe it? What if we started to actually believe we had the same power that raised Jesus from the dead living inside of us? What if we actually believed Jesus when he said that we will do greater things then he did because of this power? What would happen to our families? What would happen to our neighborhoods? What about our schools? Our churches? Our cities? Our states? Our countries? Our World?