Emily Owen

Reaching out at Easter

‘There is a hope that goes beyond the grave.’ This phrase is an awesome reality for Christians, but a bit of a strange one for people who don’t yet know Jesus! Why do they care that there is eternal hope when they don’t even realise that we all need saving in the first place?

Reaching out to connect with the local community where your small group meets is a great idea at Easter. When better to share the ‘good news’? But it needs to be approached with the Christian blinkers taken off and using words and actions that people can relate to. There’s no point running gung-ho into your local park and telling everyone about the ‘blood of the lamb’ – people will probably think you are more than a little strange.

It is weird. We celebrate a man who was brutally killed 2,000 years ago coming back to life. Christians obviously celebrate this as an incredible miracle, but you can understand why those who don’t yet understand the story want to keep a wide berth.

So here are some ‘Outreach at Easter’ tips and ideas that will hopefully encourage you to share the amazing Easter story with people around you without them crossing to the other side of the street.

Easter cards – spend some time together in your small group praying for friends, neighbours, colleagues and family members. Ask God to prompt you with an idea, encouragement or Bible verse to share with them and send it in a card.

Easter egg hunt – invite the children (and parents!) from the neighbourhood where your small group meets, or around your church, to an Easter egg hunt. Pair the eggs up with Bible verses to share. Choose verses full of hope that share the love of God and His promises of protection, eternal life and provision.

Invite friends to church – there are so many special services, events and family celebrations going on in churches over the Easter weekend. Don’t just go to them to enjoy yourself, but use them as opportunities to invite people who don’t yet know Jesus. As it’s Easter time you’ll find a lot of people want to go to church anyway, even if it is just for the sake of tradition.

Spring clean – take your small group out into your community and pick up litter, offer to mow lawns, paint fences, clean cars… Physically and literally show God’s love to people by blessing those around you.

And… PRAY for the people and places around you, ask God to give you opportunities to chat to people in your community about Him.

Happy Easter!

 

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Small Group Sceptic

It would be safe to say that if you’re writing for a blog all about small groups, it can be safely assumed that you think small groups are a good thing. But what about the people who aren’t so convinced that a small group is for them? What about those who hear that they’re a good thing to get involved with, but don’t really know why?

We ask Sophie – who openly admits that she wasn’t that bothered about being in a small group – how her opinion has changed since starting going to a weekly group. Our hope is that Sophie can give us a different perspective on small groups and maybe shed some light on what makes them (apparently) so great.

Why did you join a small group?

Everyone was talking about how they could connect at a different level in a small group. It took me a while to get the courage up to push myself out of my comfort zone and join in, but I knew from the offset that it was a safe environment. It turns out that it’s a great way to get involved with other people in the church.

What stopped you from being part of a group before?

I guess I had always intended to get involved, but the actual action of asking to be included stopped me. It meant I had to make time for it, and I had other things going on in the week (honestly!). But after six months of talking about it, it got to a point of just having to do it, so I asked to join a group and made it happen.

Can you describe the benefits of being in a small group?

The group is really laid back and I feel like I have permission to say whatever I want without being worried that I’ll say the ‘wrong’ thing, or my that opinions will be shot down. It’s fine to disagree, as the group welcomes honest discussion.

We have a Facebook group for all our members. It’s so great to know that throughout the week there’s always someone there when you need prayer and support. There’s a mutual agreement that everyone will pray for each other.

Is this the first small group you’ve been a part of?  

Nope, but my previous experience was very different. Previously, I very much just helped out with practical things like preparing food rather than being involved myself. It never had the same level of deep and meaningful chats – it was much more surface level. I think that’s because it was more of a large gathering of people rather than a small group.

What do you think is the purpose of a small group?

To encourage a very different relationship with people than the ‘standard church chat’ that you might get every Sunday. I would describe our small group as a designated space to be really real.

Did you know the people in your group before you joined?

I knew the leaders quite well and others I knew on the level of just to saying ‘Hi’ to in passing. I wasn’t nervous about starting as I knew the leaders and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know anyone else because we were all in the same boat.

What is your favourite thing about your small group?

It’s fun! I make space for it in my week because I know that I will have a great time. It has become part of my week now. I love how I know that it won’t be a waste of time as everyone turns up and is really open and real.

Any advice for those not yet in a small group?

I’d probably say, just join one and get stuck in. Obviously I can’t speak for every small group but it might just surprise you and you never know – you could end up having a really good time, meet some great friends and wish you did it earlier. And really, what have you got to lose? Go and make the most of it!

 

About Sophie

Sophie loves to cook, travel, and being food mad, plans most of her trips around what new things she can eat, drink and then try to re-create herself! She is currently happy working in Customer Services for CWR and enjoying following God wherever he is leading her.

Investing in yourself as a leader

Have you seen those adverts (usually from a bank trying to promote itself) that try to reassure you that they care about you, even if you’re not a brand new customer? They’re sending out a pretty effective message. Everyone wants to know they’re still appreciated, being invested in and are valued even if they aren’t a new customer. The same goes for church, for small groups and for leaders.

At Small Group Central we want all leaders, whether they’ve just been asked to lead a new group or have been hosting a small group for decades, to know that they are valued. And, in addition, to know that there’s always room to grow and learn more. You may have been running a group for 30 years, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new ideas and new ways that you could approach leading your group.

Your church might be great at providing support, checking in with you and making sure you feel cared for and listened to as you give your time and energy to caring for everyone in your group.  Even if this is the case, it cannot be denied that it’s important to keep your skills up to date as a leader, to keep learning and trying new things.

Proverbs 18:15 says, ‘An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seek knowledge’ (ESV).

John F. Kennedy said, ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’

Training and learning are so important. Not so that you can have ‘all the answers’, or know more than the members in your group, but so that you have more to share and can help guide others in your group.

Why not start something new in your small group, refresh your leadership skills and come along to the Small Group Essentials course being run by Andy Peck in March. The seminar will explore what makes an effective small group. Look at how you can measure and access the potential of your group.

It will teach you to understand group dynamics and the stages a small group goes through. You’ll get tips on pastoral care for your group and make space for fellowship with other leaders, swapping stories and ideas.

Give yourself the opportunity to learn something new and explore the potential of your group.

To find out more and book a place, visit the website or call 01252 784719

 

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Fresh ideas for… outreach as a small group

Autumn is in full swing. There’s no crueller reminder that you need to dig out your scarves and gloves than the chilly foot-shuffling, hand-rubbing dances you see commuters doing as they try to warm up whilst waiting for their morning buses and trains. However, just because the temperature is dropping and the nights are drawing in, that doesn’t mean you have to hide away inside as a small group – autumn is as good a season as any to be active and present in your local community.

Here are a few simple but effective ways to use the autumn season as an opportunity to engage with people around you and your small group:

  • Why not start this weekend with Bonfire night? Does your local village, town or church have a community bonfire, or fireworks display? As a small group, you could take the opportunity to each extend an invite to neighbours and friends, and meet socially before or after the display, introducing them to one another and the idea of meeting as a group.
  • You could hand out bacon rolls (vegan and vegetarian options are available!) to the commuters waiting at your local train station. Why not also hand them a copy of Why Pray? or Living on a Prayer, two of CWR’s informal and short booklets  introducing people to the idea of prayer.
  • Invite your neighbour to Sunday lunch – everyone knows how great a warm and hearty roast dinner is on a cold day. You could even suggest meeting after attending a church service together.
  • Christmas isn’t that far away (eek!), so how about writing Christmas cards to people in your local community with an offer to pray for people over the holiday season. Add a contact number or email for people to get in touch and who knows what connections or friendships could start. It would also be a great way to strengthen your small group as you pray and reflect together on any requests you may receive.
  • You could invite people to your church’s carol service. Carol services are great events to invite people along to as carols are often familiar and attract lots of people who wouldn’t normally go to church every Sunday.
  • Or you could take your group to visit a local nursing home for an evening (best check with the nursing home beforehand).

Outreach seems like a scary thing, but it needn’t be. It’s simply loving the people around us like God already does. When people ask you why you’re visiting, helping out or inviting them to an event, you don’t have to share your testimony right away or hit them with some well-timed scriptures. You can just explain that you wanted to do something nice; to share some of the incredible love that God has lavished upon you.

And remember, you’re not alone – your whole small group can get involved together.

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Coming alongside others in small groups

I saw an advert for a church recently that mentioned warm fellowship – it was definitely intended to be an incentive to draw people in. I don’t think the offer of ‘fellowship’ is really that enticing for many people … what is fellowship other than a hurried cup of coffee after a church service, before everyone rushes home to tend to roasting potatoes?

In Acts, Luke writes about how the Early Church made fellowship a priority.

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)

Why is fellowship important?

Without getting too deep into a lesson in ancient Greek, there’s a word used in the New Testament that means fellowship, which is koinonia. Two main ideas stem from it: ‘to share together, take part together’, and ‘to share with’, the act of giving to others. But how do we effectively share with one another?

I think that small groups are essential for developing fellowship in a church. To share with and care for one another. Yet it’s often easier said than done, which is why teaching found in series such as Paraclesis: Journeying Together is so important. To learn how to journey with someone, to have real, effective and honest fellowship with one another, just as God calls us to do:

‘He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.’ (2 Corinthians 1:4, The Message)

The main premise of Paraclesis: Journeying Together is for people to share what they have learnt through their life experiences with other people, in order to help them through the challenges they are facing.

Paraclesis: Journeying Together sets up churches and small groups to experience and practice true fellowship with teaching, resources and creative ideas. It teaches us to come alongside one another instead of just standing side-by-side each other at the coffee morning.

For more information, visit www.paraclesis.org.uk

About Emily Owen

Emily Bio Pic smEmily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Transformed Life: Happy, effective and fulfilled

In this series of posts, we’re looking at the eight weeks of the Transformed Life church programme. This week Emily Owen shares her thoughts about Transformed Life Week four.

I had sort of dismissed Transformed Life as a nice title rather than an actual thing that could happen. But week four has made such an impact on me that the way I’m thinking is genuinely beginning to transform and change.

This week the Bible passages started by focusing on how bad things were before we were saved. It served as a harsh reminder that I so easily forget that without forgiveness and salvation there is no hope, there is no future without God’s redemption in my life. I’ve definitely become a bit numb to how much of a big deal this is!

Sometimes I think that my life wasn’t all that bad before I was saved, so the idea of being ‘saved’ doesn’t really mean that much to me. Honestly, I used to wish that I had a more dramatic conversion story! But Dave Smith’s point, ‘if you became a Christian at an early age, thank God for what He has saved you from’, had never crossed my mind before. A non-dramatic conversion is a gift. I’m going to stop wishing I had an impressive conversion story about suddenly leaving behind a life of crime or drug addiction, and be thankful that God saved my life before I had the chance to lose it.

I’ve been in small group discussions before that turn into competitive conversations between people trying to get one-up on each other when answering the question: ‘How has your life changed since becoming a Christian?’ So it was great to reflect on how amazing it is that Jesus has saved me from what could have been, and a relief not to have another competitive discussion that makes me feel like making up a story to sound cool!

The concluding thought this week really challenged me. The Christians who are ‘most happy, effective and fulfilled’ have one thing in common: ‘they have never got over getting saved!’ – I’ve had a new realisation of how incredible it is that God has saved me – and I want to remember it so that people describe me as ‘happy, effective and fulfilled’.

Find out more about the Transformed Life church programme here.

About Emily Owen
Emily Bio Pic sm Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Transformed Life: Reflecting on the introduction

In this series of posts, we’re looking at the eight weeks of the Transformed Life church programme. This week Emily Owen shares her thoughts about the Transformed Life introduction.

I find it difficult to read a whole Christian book through to the end. I also find it tricky to keep a good habit going and I’m forever deciding that ‘this is the week’ I will get up a half hour earlier to make sure I read my Bible and pray every morning. So, it is with hopeful optimism that I’m approaching Transformed Life as, knowing myself, I’m expecting to find it difficult.

Starting with the introduction – Dave Smith doesn’t mess about, he jumps straight in with three BIG questions: ‘Who am I? Where do I belong? What am I living for?’ These questions could come across as pretty intimidating but the easy way that he writes made me feel like I can trust Transformed Life not to be too ‘full on’. It might be tackling big questions but it’s going to make it easy to find the answers.

Sometimes in a small group setting I hold back on sharing or taking part in discussions for fear of sounding stupid – there are always people in the group who are more confident, or seem to know a lot more than I do. If the intro is anything to go by then Transformed Life doesn’t assume that you already know everything. It’s got a good balance between teaching and encouragement without overwhelming you with loads of new information. It was good to read the historical context of Ephesians – I feel like I’ve already learnt something before the study even begins.

One standout line from the intro makes me really excited about exploring Ephesians and continuing to read Transformed Life: ‘Ephesians 1–3 paints a wonderfully full portrait of our new identity, belonging and purpose in Christ.’ Identity, belonging and purpose now seem like exciting things to discover rather than big questions to answer!

Find out more about the Transformed Life church programme here.

About Emily Owen
Emily Bio Pic sm Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.