What first comes to your mind when you hear “Life Group”? For me, it’s a love/hate relationship. I tend to think I can do most everything on my own, but acknowledging God’s design and direction for community doesn’t leave room for that. I need God and I need His people. I know that because He constantly calls us in His Word to:
- “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2)
- “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24)
- “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10)
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)
But while Scripture is clear on the need for community, it doesn’t make cultivating it easy. Here are some things to remember and do in order to build community:
- Show up! You won’t want to go to Life Group all the time, but go anyway. God is faithful, and He calls us to “not neglect meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself, your marriage, your kids, your friends, is to show up and be a part, even when you don’t feel like it. Rarely will you end up going and regret that you did.
- Remember–Life Group is part of God’s provision for you. Community isn’t something else to carry on your plate, but rather it is something that helps you carry your plate well. We are all busy. It’s easy to view Life Group as something else to add to your agenda. But what if God gave us community to help us with that agenda?
- Expect conflict. As a culture, we tend to lean away or just leave when conflict arises. But difficulties and differences are what God uses to refine us. As believers, we get to view conflict as an opportunity to grow and to hear others’ perspectives. We’re on the same team, and if conflict is inevitable, why not use it as a tool to make you more like Christ?
- Be quick to forgive. People are messy and broken. That’s why we need a Savior. With that comes the opportunity–and there will be many–to work through conflict and to extend and/or receive forgiveness. Forgiven people forgive people, and since we have been forgiven much, we are to extend forgiveness to our group members.
- Appreciate each other’s differences. This is actually one of the most beautiful parts of community. We need people that think and process differently than we do. In fact, the more different you are, the easier it is to see that Jesus is who’s holding your group together. “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?…As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:17, 20)
- Come to group to process a decision, not report a decision. If we view community as God’s provision and source of wisdom in our lives, we should bring decisions to group to process through, not simply to report a decision we’ve already made. Whether to buy a house, a car, a business, to grow your family or move to a different city, all of these decisions are things that our community gets to walk through with us and be a part of. We can cause people to miss out on being a part of what God is doing in our lives if we don’t let them into the decision process with us. Besides, as Proverbs says often: wisdom comes from the counsel of many.
- Assume the best. This one is pretty simple, but how often do I get upset because I’ve assumed the worst about what someone in group has said or done? Assume the best of that person and trust that the Holy Spirit is working in them. While assuming the best, if something still seems off, talk to them with boldness and gentleness.
- Know that your Life Group members aren’t called to be your best friends. I struggle with this one. We have expectations about everything, and one of the things I expect every time I get into a group is that they will become my best friends; if they don’t, then I’m out. While becoming best friends is a possibility and would be great, it’s not a necessity to have a faithful Life Group. And while your Life Group isn’t called to be your best friends, they have the potential to become like family, which is even better.
- Be authentic. Authenticity breeds authenticity, and you can’t be fully loved until you’re fully known. Oftentimes, what you think will push people away is actually what will make you more relatable. And if you don’t share, then maybe no one will ever share. Be bold, and don’t be afraid to be known!
- Have fun together! Life Group isn’t supposed to be boring! We are called to live life together and sometimes, oftentimes, that means having fun together, too. Whether it’s game nights, sporting events, family gatherings, dinners, concerts–make memories together as a group. Take the group to the next level by going on a weekend getaway or trip once a year together as well. While having fun together is fun, it’s important because it helps turn some of the more difficult and hard relationships in our group into some of the closest ones.
Cultivating community isn’t always pretty and sometimes it’s really difficult, but with Jesus, it can become one of the greatest sources of joy and refreshment on this side of heaven. So lean in, and remember that God is faithful and is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)
By Rachel Fluker. Rachel is wife to Josh and mom to Dawson, Micah, and Paige. If she’s not at home wrangling three tiny children, you can find her at a local coffee shop or Chick-fil-A.