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New Bibliography

For those of you who were a part of South Plains’ Wednesday night series on spiritual disciplines (or if you were unable to be a part), I have included a new page with some suggested resources. These will help you continue your journey into practices that help us be transformed into His image.

You can find the list by clicking on the tab above which says “Bibliography” or by going directly here.

One question, though: What would you add to this list?

Who Is My Neighbor?

I have a confession.

When Jesus talks about being a neighbor to others, I am not sure I really understand what he is talking about. I mean, I hear what he is saying and yes, I understand him, but as I look at my life, I am not sure it really looks like the life of someone who loves my neighbor.

I like to be around the people I already know.

I like to be around the people I already know who look and act and think like me.

I like loving my neighbor when I get some reward for doing so—at the very least, recognition of some sort.

I like loving my neighbor when I have a few minutes of free time and do not have to go too far out of my way.

I like … well, you get the idea, I think.

This Sunday evening, June 3 at 5:00 pm, we will gather at the South Plains building to wrestle with how best to love our neighbors.

Will you join us?

More importantly, will you come ready to share the stories you have of loving your neighbor and through that, help us all love others more?

Summer Sundays

Here is our schedule for the summer:

June 3: Learning to Love Neighbors (at the building)
June 10: Learning to Study More (at the building)
June 17: Learning to Serve through Ministry (at the building)
June 24: Timothy and Tabitha Led Service (at the building)
July 1: Spending Time with Neighbors (in homes, parks, and other venues with 1 Groups)
July 8: Home Bible Study (in homes with your family)
July 15: Family Night (in homes with your family)
July 22: Serving through Ministry (at various venues with 1 Groups)
July 29: Timothy and Tabitha Led Service (at the building)
Aug 5: Party in the Park (at the building, picnic on the north lawn)
Aug 12: Home Bible Study (in homes with your family)
Aug 19: Ice Cream Social and 1 Group Connections (at the building, sponsored by 1 Groups)
Aug 26: Timothy and Tabitha Led Service (at the building).
I hope you will make plans to join us for this exciting time!

Taxes and Groups

Tax preparation labels you. Although they are few, there are times in life when you are instantly labeled, put into one camp or the other. You are either an instruction reader or a “do it by feel” kind of person. You either ask for directions or refuse to admit you are truly lost.  You are either a morning or late night person. Coke or Pepsi. And you either keep a neat log with all your receipts and mileage records or you just throw them all into a drawer (if even that!)

I have heard about people who have a nice, neat, computer print out of all their expenditures and business miles printed in advance. Like … end of January advance. It often makes completing their 1040 as simple as filling in the blanks. In no time, they are done.

Others use more of a “somewhere-in-the-bottom-of-this-shoebox” system. They scramble desperately to get all of the facts and figures down on paper and put in the proper place before the deadline. (And yes, the bottom-of-the-box individual is often the ten minutes until midnight person as well.)

It dawned on me this year (it was a shoebox year, thanks for asking) that we often approach our groups in a similar manner. Sometimes we spend time all throughout the year developing relationships and spending time with group leaders or members. Our mutual encouragement, accountability, and support of one another flow easily as we continue to work through a small group year. When a crisis arises, we have already developed the relationships that enable us to smoothly sail the rough waters.

Other times, we desperately try to pull together relationships we have spent far too little time cultivating during the year, all the while knowing the small group year is drawing to a close and wondering what sort of harvest our groups will produce. When the challenges raise their ugly head, we have to scramble in hopes that we somehow make it through the difficult stretches.

Which category do you fall in?

Are you doing the little things every day that make the big moments of your group life seem as simple as just filling in the blanks?

Here are the resources I mentioned in tonight’s lesson, along with some of the notes.

Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline

Thomas Merton Thoughts in Solitude

Henri J. M. Nouwen The Way of the Heart

Marjorie J. Thompson Soul Feast

Spiritual disciplines that will help you relinquish those idols that stand in the way of you and God are:

  • Self-examination
  • Silence
  • Solitude
  • Submission
  • The discipline of secrecy was also mentioned because it is, I believe, a byproduct of a life that longs to allow God to have all control.

Over the next two weeks, do the following:

  • Spend some examining your heart, your motives, and asking God to show you those things that need to be relinquished or that you need to place under His control.
  • Spend some time in solitude.
  • Spend some time in silence.
  • As you become aware of those things that need to be relinquished, submit yourself to God’s calling and give those things over to him.
  • Finally, do something in secret this week.

Thank You

Today is an exciting day for me and my family as I begin to work full-time in the role of 1 Groups Minister. Although I have been working closely with 1 Groups for the past 6 months or so (and Community Groups prior to that), being involved with such a great ministry staff at such a great congregation on a day-to-day basis is a blessing and I look forward to the opportunities before us.

There are a couple of things you should look for from this blog.

The first is an opportunity to be in conversation with each other about things involving small groups. This applies not only to those who lead groups (at South Plains), but anyone who has interest in small groups at any location. Feel free to be a part of the ongoing conversation you find here.

Also, I hope that the things you find here help you as a leader of a group, as a member of a group, and more importantly, as individuals seeking to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ. Not everything will hit everyone the same way, but I think you will find something here that you find beneficial.

Again, I look forward to serving the South Plains congregation in this role and I pray that together we can continue to do what God is already doing here.

Peace,
Rob

On paper, it looked like such a good idea. Your small group was made up of a collection of families, each ready to commit to spending time together sharing and encouraging one another. You looked forward to your first meeting only to discover, when that meeting actually began, the adults were outnumbered by children over 2-to-1. What began as a time of encouragement and lifting one another up ended as a time of maintaining sanity, and quite frankly, you are not sure you even did that well.

One of the most often asked question from small group leaders is “What do we do with the children?” In other words, how do we manage to create a sharing, encouraging environment in the midst of the activity and busy-ness that is sometimes life with young (and old) children?

For those of us participating in 1 Groups, this dilemma is accentuated, because now we are not only discovering how to manage a group with children, we are actually, as part of our 1 Vision, encouraging groups to form with intergenerational relationships in mind.

Let me give some suggestions as to how you might address this situation.

First, let me remind you that only you think your children are the only ones who are being rowdy. It has been my experience that those who are most concerned about the behavior of a certain set of children are usually, and only, the parents of said children. Everyone else is not concerned or perhaps even notices what is going on, just the parents. Often times, no one notices because there is really nothing to be noticed—the kids are acting within a normal range of behaviors. So, give yourself permission to relax a little about the children—especially yours.

Second, do not discount the power of another adult’s ability to hold your child’s attention. In a room full of children being active, as they are oft to do, perhaps an older individual asking your child to sit next to him or her and quietly reading or looking at a picture book together can be surprisingly effective. Just the fact that it is not mom or dad seems to catch the interest of the child.

Third, redefine what you consider a “quality small group meeting.” If your assumption is that you and several other adults will sit down to an in-depth discussion about the Scripture for the week with 15 children in the house, you are probably going to be disappointed. But, if you alter your perception so as to value the interaction your children have with other adults and older children in the group, you avoid the temptation of defining success only by how “in-depth” you got. Remember that a part of the 1 Vision is to develop intergenerational relationships, not to answer all seven questions in the study guide.

Finally, know when it is time to punt. My bias is that we exclude children from our times together more than we should so I will always try to err toward the side of including them with us in our meeting times. However, there are times when it better serves both the children and the parents for you to have a short devotional with the children (time of singing, reading Scripture, perhaps a question or two, and a prayer) and then allow them to go outside or in the other room while the parents visit.

This week, if you feel like your children are a detriment to the health of the group, spend some time discussing with one another their perceptions. My guess is one of two things will happen. You may find that you are the only one wrestling with this issue and discover that there is really no need for you to worry. Or, you may find out that others also have a concern, but you will also learn that as you work together as a group, you are all able to come up with a fantastic solution to help all of you—adults and children—grow together. Either way, you win.

Rob

What suggestions do you have to help overcome the sometimes chaotic time of adults and children being together in a small group meeting while still valuing the participation of your children?