Monday, February 22, 2010

Signs of Life part 2: Inclusion

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small groups pastor

Last week I launched a new series of posts regarding our values at PCC. If you haven't done so already, take a moment to go back and read part 1: The Transformation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Problems in your group?

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small groups pastor

If you answered no, then you better brace yourself... 'cause they're comin'! Don't you feel encouraged? I hate to be a Donny Downer on this one, but we need to be practical. Groups are messy because they're made up of messy people! And every once in a while I get questions about what to do with someone in a group who [fill in the blank]... or won't stop [fill in the blank]... or called me a [fill in the blank].

Monday, February 15, 2010

Signs of Life part 1: the transformation

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small groups pastor

At Pathway, we state that our mission is to intentionally influence people to seek a genuine and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. What does that look like? If this is what we're about as an organization, then we should have some idea what a genuine and growing follower of Christ is and does. So let's ask the question: What is a genuine and growing Christ follower?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Same journey. Different places.

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small groups pastor

One of the greatest benefits of authentic community is the opportunity to benefit from the life-experiences and spiritual journeys of others in our group. The fact is that each of us have something to give, and something to gain, when we're connected in community. The reason for that is because all of us are at different places. My journey may be further along than others, but not as far someone else. And regardless, we can learn from each other.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Narrow the Focus

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small group pastor

Do you know why you're group is meeting? If I were to ask you what the purpose of your journey group is, could you answer that question? Furthermore, if I were to ask what the focus of your journey group is, could you answer that question? Let's take this one more teeny, tiny step further and say that if I were to ask everyone in your group that question, would you all have the same answer?

Maybe you'd ask me a question in response to this: are we supposed to have a focus? And the answer is... YES. Yes, your group should have a singular, unified focus.

All of our groups share a common purpose:
Journey groups exist to create the environment where people gather in small groups to experience deeper connection and growth as we pursue life together.
And our groups all share the same number one goal:
To help people connect more deeply with one another, and with God.
Those things are true for every journey group. But what's your group's focus? What are the unique goals that your group will pursue as you do life together? In other words, what changes do the members of your group want to experience in their personal and spiritual lives as a result of your time together?

This is something that we haven't spelled out for you. In fact, this is something that your group needs to decide together.

The bottom line is spiritual growth. At Pathway, we believe that a genuine and growing Christ follower exhibits four things:
  1. Living a transformed life.
  2. Included in authentic community.
  3. Focused on ministry partnership.
  4. Engaging the mission as the hands and feet of Jesus.
We know these as the four signs of life. (Notice that they spell the word life. Clever, isn't it.) And it's no accident that we often refer to groups pusuing life together, because that's what you're doing. Your journey group, in some way, shape or form, is connecting you, not just to other people, but to each of these vital signs, as well. In fact, each of the four values of journey groups reflect these signs of life applied in community (watch for future posts that expound on our values).

We believe that every group should, in some way, strive to live out each of these values in the life of their group. Again, groups should be pursuing life together - and that includes all the signs of life. But which one will your group make your focus for a specific season? And how will you narrow the focus to a specific component of that sign of life so that it becomes more practical and attainable?

For example, one group may decide to make authentic community their focus as a group. That's a great start, but by itself is really too broad. You may find that group members are still a little fuzzy on what that even means. So, as a group it's important to begin to narrow that down to a specific goal within authentic community that becomes very clear, practical, and attainable. In this instance, a new group might make building strong friendships the goal within their focus. It's part of authentic community, but it's specific enough that it can be accomplished within a set amount of time. And when it's accomplished, it can be measured and celebrated - and those are important to do.

Here are some other examples of how groups can narrow the focus to specific goals within each of the signs of life:
  • Living a transformed life:
    > Knowing Scripture.
    > Practicing prayer together and privately.
    > Learning the "basics" of Christianity.
    > Growing in faith/learning to trust.
    > (insert your own ideas)
  • Included in authentic community:
    > Building strong friendships.
    > Increasing the level of intimacy to promote open dialogue.
    > Developing accountability among the members.
    > (insert your own ideas)
  • Focused on ministry partnership:
    > Developing the discipline of tithing.
    > Discovering the Spiritual Gifts.
    > Developing a servant's heart.
    > Actively serving together.
    > (insert your own ideas here)
  • Engaging the mission as the hands and feet of Jesus:
    > Understanding the Great Commission.
    > Growing into a lifestyle of evangelism.
    > Local and global missions.
    > (insert your own ideas here)
Again, some of these are things that should be happening in every group. But when you make any one of these things the focus of your group, you treat it a little differently. It becomes the mission that your group is striving to accomplish. And you set out to focus on that mission for as long as it takes. And as a group, you decide the steps that you'll take achieve the goals you've set together as a group. This will impact how your group does life together until you feel you've reached those goals. This will impact what studies you go through, what outings you plan, and how you'll put it into practice as a group and as individuals.

Here are some reasons why narrowing the focus in your group is an important part of group life. When your group has narrowed the focus:
  1. It brings the group together around a unified mission or goal. This is something the group can rally behind together, and can increase the connectedness and commitment within the group.
  2. It helps direct the group to studies that will hopefully take the group closer to achieving their goals. Every six to eight weeks, groups find themselves asking the question, now what are we going to study? When the group has narrowed their focus, this question becomes easier to answer.
  3. It provides a way to measure the growth of the group. How do you know if your group is growing if you haven't established goals by which to measure? Narrowing the focus helps you accomplish this.
  4. It provides clarity to the group as to what your time together will hopefully accomplish. This ensures that everyone in the group is on the same page.
  5. It helps groups intentionally - and practically - realize the mission & purpose of journey groups and PCC. Pathway Community Church exists to influence people to seek a genuine and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We believe a genuine and growing follower of Christ is someone who pursue the four vital signs of life. Journey groups are the environment where where we pursue life together. So narrowing the focus is what enables this mission to be accomplished.
Hopefully, you're beginning to buy into this idea that narrowing the focus can be instrumental in the health and effectiveness of your group. If your group hasn't done so already, take some time at your next meeting to discuss what your goals are as a group. And when you've landed on a focus and a goal that the group can rally behind, write that into your covenant. Solidify that as an essential to your life together for the present season. And then begin to explore ways that your group will see that goal come to fruition.

Questions or ideas? We'd love to hear them. Feel free to post a comment so everyone can benefit!