I’ve been doing “life together” with the same community group for 8 years now. You might think that means we are all perfect for each other, or started off as best friends. But that’s not the case.
I had never even met any of the guys currently in our community group before our first group meeting. After that first meeting, I quickly realized that we had nothing in common, and I honestly didn't want to go back. They were all engineers, and I had an art degree. I saw them as geeks, and they saw me as a pretentious Dallas metrosexual. I was wrong about them, but they were right about me—that is, until God began to use them to work incredible changes in my life. Today, we actually are best friends, are all married, and our wives are a part of the group, too.
But we did (and still do) have to work at it. And though each group of people is different, some of the best practices we learned would apply to every community group.
1. Align expectations.
Nothing will frustrate you more than being on different pages. What do you hope to get out of the group? Would everyone else in the group answer that question the same way? Don't just assume so.
You cannot offer someone “accountability” if they don’t want it. You will be wasting your time, and they will hate you for it. Ask them: Are they willing to confess sin? Will they share the happenings of their lives openly? Are they committed to the goals of the group?
2. Determine your track.
Once you have buy-in from everyone, determine the “track” you will run on. Will you study a book of the Bible together, or simply hold each other accountable to individual Bible-reading? Will you go through a curriculum together (for example: MoneyWise), or keep the time open to discuss accountability and life?
This will also help determine how often you should meet, how long each meeting will run, and what the “agenda” will be for each meeting.
Each person has to decide to commit to the group. If you are not committed, it is too easy to choose in the moment not to go to a group meeting. The big game is on, you had to work late, or you are super tired. These all might seem to be valid excuses unless you have previously decided what it is acceptable to miss group for.
Miss group only for what you would miss work for. You probably wouldn't miss work because the big game is on, but you might miss it if you have a 104-degree fever. Make the group a priority.
4. Appoint a leader.
The leader's primary job is communication. They remind everyone where you are meeting, when, and what they need to be prepared for. They are also responsible for keeping the meetings on track, and serve as the point person for communicating with the church.
Leadership can regularly rotate between group members, if you want. However, if someone is good at it and willing to handle that responsibility, they will bless your group.
5. Check the pulse.
Consistently take time to ask others how they feel the group is going. You may find ways to improve, or determine that you need to change gears.
There will be seasons of discouragement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing it wrong. This stuff is hard work.
Community has changed my life for the better. If you want to experience that change, you can get into a community group at GroupLink coming up on July 14, or through the Open Community Groups after The Porch each Tuesday.
You may not be best friends, or have even met the people who will be in your group. But you can focus on what you do have in common as brothers or sisters in Christ.
For those who are in community, what best practices have you found helpful? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.