Luke

New year priorities

When I think about small groups, I picture people reaching out to the wider community, sharing stories and learning how to grow and develop as Christians together. A nice thought isn’t it? We also know that in Matthew it says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is a great reminder of why it is such a good idea to regularly meet up together. We schedule prayer meetings, small groups and other church events, but do you ever feel like it’s a struggle to keep up with it all?

Personally I find it very tricky to manage everything life throws at me. Be it work, relationships or just finding time to cook dinner; the world is a busy place. I really should start going back to the gym (which yes I’m still paying for despite not using it). But why is it that we make time for these areas in our lives and not for meeting together in God’s presence? I think it’s down to priority, and what we value in our lives.

It’s easy enough to acknowledge that God should be number one, but are we really living that out? I have been guilty of thinking that spending time  with God is something I can do when it fits into my plans, but   life soon draws us into other things instead. We choose to see friends, or do housework – are we placing more value in these activities, instead of prioritising meeting together with God? The Bible says, “And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you”. Luke 12:29-31,

This really reflects on the idea that placing God first in our lives, will allow other worries to settle and the balancing act of life will level out.  Yes, it can be a challenge to find time to meet together, and we will at times fall short, but God loves it when we meet in His name. So let’s reflect carefully on how we prioritise our time and really be thankful that we have the opportunities to come together in small groups. As 2018 starts let’s try our very best to meet together, pray together and grow together.

 

About Jonny Byczok

Jonny has recently joined CWR as part of the Marketing and Communications team as a videographer.

Prepare the way

Examining their faithful insight into the Christmas story, we turn to the incredible gospel authors Matthew and Luke to consider how Zechariah and Elizabeth’s pregnancy prepares us for the arrival of the King.

We are encouraged to think about the righteous nature of Zechariah, asking ourselves if we struggle with doubt and fear in our own walk with Christ. Elizabeth helps rebuild our confidence and belief that, with God, anything is possible!

Reading

Matthew 1:1-25; Luke 1:1-25

Questions to discuss

1. Do you have regular time that you carve out to spend with the Lord? If not, why not? Would you like to change your pattern?

2. How do you feel about trusting God with everything? Are there aspects of your life where you like to stay in control?

3. What is your deepest fear? Does it affect your daily decisions? Together, ask Jesus to break the cycle of fear in your life.

4. Elizabeth found that nothing was impossible with God. Is there anyone in the group who has lost hope? Pray for them that their faith would rise again, despite their circumstances.

5. Have you witnessed God’s perfect timing? Perhaps you can share testimonies of when you have seen answered prayer, in a way that suddenly makes sense… it may have only been seen with the benefit of hindsight!

6. Share together a couple of things for which you are truly thankful to God. Praise God for these things in your life.

End the session

Read Psalm 48 together as a declaration of who the Lord truly is. Ask one member of the group to end in prayer.

This small group session was taken from Heralding the Coming King Cover to Cover Advent Study Guide, by Anne Calver.

Anne Calver

Anne is a Baptist Minister and trained at the London School of Theology. Her passion is to see people encounter Jesus and become all they can in Him. She has previously worked for Youth for Christ and has been a self-employed writer and speaker, co-authoring three books as well as writing for magazines.

When helping hurts a small group

OK, so this may be the only Small Group Blog you’ll read, which starts by sitting at the feet of an economist! The man in question, Brian Fikkert, wrote a book – When Helping Hurts. It said (my paraphrase) that you can (without meaning to) hurt people in poverty by helping, if your help answers their problem for them.

Why? First, because it locks up their own ability to answer the problem, making them dependant on you. And, second, because it obligates the donor to continue being that answer indefinitely (which can prompt an unhealthy co-dependant relationship).

What’s that got to do with your small group?

Jesus didn’t leave a Mr/s fix-it, but a counsellor. The difference? A counsellor helps unlock the counselee’s own potential, enabling them to walk their own way out of their problems.

While a Mr/s fix-it does it for them.

Jesus’ pattern was to unlock the disciple’s potential, sending them out, even telling them they’d do all – and more – than he’d done.

So – if you’re a small group leader, is this your aim? To unlock your group member’s potential, to see them doing all you’re doing in the group – maybe even more?

Underpinning this is the knowledge that God doesn’t ask people to face things he will not enable them to deal with, as they have faith in him. Every person in your small group has enough God-given potential to have a go.

This isn’t about independence, but becoming emotionally able to hold the hand of God, with the counsel of his Spirit, and the support of a small group. And through it discovering more of who God made them – and you – to be.

At a simple level reflect on this question: could you lead a small group session, or even a small section of it? Have you had a go? Have you asked to have a go? Have you asked God to help you have a go? If you lead the small group, have you asked a member to have a go?

Luke 16:10 suggests that faithfulness in big things follows learning to be faithful in small things: can you step into a small thing, or invite someone else to – knowing it may be the doorway to bigger things?

Because, as Brian Fikkert says, if our kindness leads us to do it for others, when they could be learning to have a go themselves, then our helping risks hurting them.

About Steve Adams

Steve is married to Ruth and they have 4 children. They’ve run small groups in churches and written several books resourcing small groups in creative ways of engaging with God, the Bible and current issues.

Honesty in small groups

A challenge that most small groups face is how to create a genuine atmosphere – one where people feel that they can be honest and will be supported and listened to rather than embarrassed or judged. A place where you can discuss the stuff that doesn’t always get talked about in church.

A practical way of moving towards a group that trusts one another is to share personal testimonies. Whist the idea of telling your private story to a room full of (sometimes) strangers is really daunting, it can also be encouraging and affirming as it gives people confidence to share their faith with others.

ENCOURAGEMENT – The encouragement is two-fold: both for the person sharing their testimony and also for those receiving it. By telling your God story you remember things that God has done in your life afresh and those hearing how you have come to know, believe and follow Him learn new things about His character and love for them too.

‘Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16)

AFFIRMATION – Testimonies remind us what we believe. They show that we all have different walks with God and confirm that it’s okay to be different. Some people have dramatic testimonies of God intervening into desperate situations in their lives and changing everything in an instant, whilst others have gradually come to know God slowly, little by little. By sharing your story and listening to others you learn just how amazingly different people’s relationships with God are. The individuality of each testimony isn’t a competition to see whose story is more ‘impressive’, as the more testimonies you hear the more you’ll realise the best bits aren’t when people are talking about themselves, but rather the truths they have learnt about God.

‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son’ (1 John 5:11)

CONFIDENCE – The more testimonies we hear the more amazing truths about God we have to share with others. If you hear great stories of God acting in people’s lives, you want to share them. By practicing telling your testimony in the safe environment of your small group you’ll be more prepared to share your story with others who don’t yet have a relationship with God. Your story doesn’t have to polished and perfect, just real and honest.

‘“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him’ (Luke 8:39)

 

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.