Sunday, 23 June 2013

What Being In A Growth Group Means For Me

I have been a part of a Growth Group/Bible Study group now, either as a member or a leader, for nearly 30 years.  I have been in many varied groups, from mixed young adults, to men only, to mixed groups. Currently I am co-leading, with Karen, a mixed group of adults – some married, some single.

I have seen so many things happen over those years, not the least of which is the way God has moved and shaken me up to mould me into the person I am today.

Growth Group participation is a given for me as a Christian, I simply cannot do things on my own and what better way to do it then with a group of people who share the same values and reason for living that I do.

So, here are some of the benefits of being in a Growth Group that I see, in no particular order:

Supper. In business they say the best discussions are had around the coffee machine, so never underestimate that time where we socialise beforehand with a cuppa and a biscuit; mind you it seems to only be the men who eat up!! We meet about 15 minutes before the more formal time and it’s a great way to chat and catch up with what’s been happening during the week gone and helps build the relationships, particularly for any new members.

Accountability. Sometimes in life we need other people to keep us on track and spur us on to accomplish our goals. A Growth group is perfect for doing that. We can be honest with each other and share our worries and concerns in a confidential environment without judgement but in a way that enables us to be accountable to someone who cares.  

Social Events. Once a term we strive to have a meal together. Occasionally we study the Bible as well as eat, but mostly we just enjoy a meal and a chat together and share conversation. It’s another great way to get to know each other better.

Studying the Bible and hearing different perspectives. We spend about 45 minutes to read and study the Bible, varying the way we study it, from following along with the current sermon series in Church to using Life Guide study notes on books of the Bible or topical subjects or characters.

I like the idea of hearing other people’s point of view. Our group is a diverse mix of so many different people who are Christians – e.g. age, gender, office workers, work from home people, some have degrees; some run their own business, some are crafty, some excel at hospitality. We are all at different stages of our journey. The one thing that is not different is we are united by our love for the Lord and a desire to grow closer to Him each day.

It is refreshing to hear a different point of view on a scripture I have read numerous times before. That is one way we grow as Christians.

Another primary reason I go to Bible study each week is for the encouragement I receive from the people in our group.

Sharing personal struggles and seeking advice.
Over the course of the years, I have shared our stories of loss, our fears, temptations, and weaknesses. Sometimes a member of the group might offer a helpful suggestion, and sometimes there is no answer. That's when we are able to support each other, and love each other through times of struggle, to pray together, and encourage one another as best we can. There aren't always answers, but knowing you’re being held up in prayer can go a long way to calming fears.

Praying for each other.
Usually after studying the Bible we spend about 30 minutes writing down and sharing our prayer requests and of course praying for each other, usually in groups of 3-5 people. We stress the importance of confidentiality that what’s shared in the group stays in the group. We also encourage everyone in the group to use these in their personal daily prayer time; it helps to know others are praying for you.

Celebrating life's many blessings.
Over the years there are so many great things that happen to us and our Growth Group experiences many of these together. Our groups have been: a source of encouragement, support, Godly counsel, and friendship that can never be replaced.

Outreach Focus. One of the key things I love about our group is that we want to grow and serve God and see how He wants to use us. Some years ago we felt led to head up the Anglicare Food Drive collection in the Barden Ridge area on behalf of our church. We listened to the call to action and as a result we have been blessed to see God work so powerfully each year. So many contacts have been made in the community, so much help from so many people in our Church, and every year we seem to hear more touching stories. It’s fantastic to see so many other groups and individuals share our vision.   

Growth groups are a sure way to get to know others in our church community more intimately. We are a large church and there is no way you can get to know every person. But you can get to know every person in your group, well. And we can support each other and share each others’ burdens in a group. We don’t always do that perfectly because none of us is perfect. But we can do the best we can with the gifts that God gives us in the intimate nature of our groups.

Nigel Beckman

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