The people who have made the greatest impact on me and my spiritual formation were authentic. They were real about their lives and struggles. They weren’t insecure or territorial. They weren’t image-conscious or secretive.
Rather, they were humble risk-takers for the Kingdom, selfless advocates, and potential-seers. They weren’t threatened by other leaders or competitive with them because of their own insecurities. Instead, they tended to be self-effacing, preferring to elevate and celebrate others instead of themselves.
Authenticity is a trait that almost every human-being admires and desires to emulate, but it can be scary for many of us to model because it makes us feel vulnerable. However, this vulnerability is well worth the risk because next to prayer, authenticity is the key to success as a group leader. It’s an essential ingredient for creating the conditions for biblical community to grow.
“The irony of masks is that although we wear them to make other people think well of us, they are drawn to us only when we take them off.”
– John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them
The health of a group can be directly linked to how free people feel they can be with one another. People will gladly spend their time and energy to be someplace where they can be themselves and most people can only be themselves when they feel safe. This kind of safe environment is born out of authentic leadership that builds trust by telling the truth. Truth and trust feed into one another – as one grows stronger, so does the other.
There is no greater influence on the dynamic of a group than how real the leader is with the participants. By way of example, the effect of a group leader’s authenticity is not unlike that which a mother duck has on her ducklings: Demonstrated transparency from leadership has tremendous “imprinting power!” One of the beauties of authenticity is that it’s contagious! As you model authenticity, you will see that it inspires others to do the same.
I believe that one of the reasons group members complain of the group not being “deep enough,” is not so much due to shallow curriculum, as it is the lack of relational depth among participants. Authenticity deepens relationships and results in group discussions that have more depth and challenge to them.
Authenticity builds community, earns credibility, breeds safety, and helps relationships grow deeper. People can smell authenticity…and the truth is…God is more easily found in a community that tells the truth about themselves. There are practical steps you can take to grow as a leader who models authenticity, which I’ll share in the upcoming post.
Take the time to help your ministry teams function more like groups because healthy ministry flows from healthy relationships. By adding some intentionality to building community among people who serve together, a leader will see powerful outcomes they would want everyone on their team to experience. Members of relational ministry teams…
So how can your team experience more of the life-giving dynamic we see in Acts 2:42-47 so it can have even greater ministry impact?
Team members who experience community while serving together are more likely to catch the vision of groups in your church and be champions of serving within them. Taking the steps above will help your teams function more like groups so that everyone can experience the joy that comes with fulfilling the church’s mission together.
For years I would tell people how awesome groups are and why they needed to join one. I figured I would see greater results with more “stage time” and energy put into encouraging people to connect. However, the extra emphasis rarely yielded results that were much better than normal. This prompted me to rethink how to help people catch the vision for biblical community and become intentional about growing spiritually with other believers.
As with many things in our Christian faith, the most powerful actions are the ones that are simple to take. For example, I came to realize that instead of delivering just the right words with gusto, I needed to pray, asking the Lord to convey the vision to people’s hearts and inspire them to lead or connect in a group. In the process, I found that God would give me something to share that I didn’t plan on originally. Here are some other tips to help explain why Christ-followers should say ‘yes’ to being in community:
There are numerous benefits to being a part of life-giving biblical community. In fact, if you dig deep into the passage that gives us a blueprint of what the early Church looked like at Pentecost in Acts 2:42-47, you can find over two dozen positive aspects of this super-natural gathering of believers. It’s helpful to have a some of these benefits in mind to share with the people you get to influence, whether it’s a few friends or an entire congregation. As a result of engaging in a group, people can expect these transformational outcomes:
You could unpack each of these ten benefits, revealing so many more empowering outcomes for believers who are rooted in Christ-centered community. Beyond the impact at the individual level, groups build up the church and support its paid staff immensely. When groups are the basic building blocks for every ministry area in the church, more people feel a sense of belonging, stay involved, and serve together! Church staff receive necessary support, congregational care is strengthened, giving increases, and the local church can live out all the vital functions of the Church during the week!
All of this just skims the surface of the inextricable significance of biblical community to the mission God has entrusted to His people (2 Corinthians 5:16-20). An eternal ripple effect is initiated when believers pursue their God-given purpose in life-giving relationships with Him and others. The invitation into a group then is really an invitation to join in God’s mission and it’s how we can be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10-18).
So when we talk about the benefits of believers connecting in community, it’s not so much that THEIR needs will be met…it’s more so they can be effective in the purpose to which God has called them: To make disciples. To join a group is to join in God’s mission.
The Executive Pastor of a large multi-site church trying to revitalize their “life group ministry” once asked me what needed to happen in order for them to do groups well. I summarized the conversation thinking some insights might help you with where you’re at now.
The implementation of any of these insights will bring improvement, but what makes all the difference is the dedicated buy-in and extreme ownership of the Lead Pastor. If you’re not there yet, pray and take steps forward with the ones you think are most achievable for you right now. Progress observed will inspire additional steps forward.
Culture is something you feel. Every group of people and organization has a distinct culture. It’s the water in which you swim when you’re hanging out in an environment or with a group of people. It’s what you experience through all your senses when you are gathered with others who are a part of it.
You, for example, are experiencing more than just coffee when you sit inside a Starbucks. There is a culture that has been intentionally and artistically created to entice customers to return and build brand loyalty. Although our motivations differ, church leadership want people to return and consistently engage in their community life for infinitely more important reasons.
Pastors love it when people say their church feels like family. They just know it’s a win when folks say they feel like they belong and enjoy connecting with others each week. However, most leaders are not conscious about all the factors that make it that way. The DNA of culture must be deliberately molded, and just like a potter with clay, it is best to do it at the very beginning of a new work.
Regardless of where you would consider yourself to be in building a community culture in your church, here are eight keys I’ve discovered along the way that will help in this process:
This is all worth doing wholeheartedly because healthy spiritual relationships are essential to having a growing relationship with Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 John 1:7, 3:14, 4:20). Furthermore, when spiritually lost people come to a loving community, they tend to come to Christ (Acts 2:47; John 13:34; 1 John 4:12). Building a community culture is not optional for a church that wants to advance God’s mission in the world and these keys will help you and your team in the process.