Christian Life Groups – The Essential Elements

Today’s 4th day letter is part two of a three part series on the topic of Christian Life Groups. The three parts are written in order so if you did not get a chance to read part one you can do so by clicking here. Last week I made you a promise. I said, if you would employ the methods and techniques I would explain throughout this three part series, they could change your life! Christian Life Groups are very simple, but to gain the most benefit, it is important to know that there are a few key essential parts of an effective gathering.

Once again, I want to state that if you are already in a group of Christians that meet weekly I hope you will discover a few new ideas to make your groups more meaningful. If you are not yet in a Christian Life Group, I strongly encourage you to consider forming or joining one.

Here are some basics in forming and sustaining a vibrant group:

  1. It is very important to meet every week
    • I suggest that each person in the group add the date and time of your Christian Life Group meeting for the next 52 weeks to whatever paper or electronic calendar that you use most frequently. Try to do your best to schedule other activities around this date and time. Regular attendance is essential to the success of the group.
  2. Keep the size of your group small, ideally between three and six people.
  3. Follow a planned format.
    • At each meeting everyone in the group should discuss how they did the previous week on each of the three essential topics.
      • Communication(prayer or piety)
      • Illumination (study or formation)
      • Evangelization(action)
    • There can be a tendency to just “wing it,” in other words, to just talk about whatever is on someone’s mind. This rarely works and eventually people will either drift away from the group or the group will lose it primary purpose.
    • Remember this is not intended to be a time to discuss church or parish projects or to discuss other ministries you are involved in. These groups are not a Bible study. Christian Life Groups are a time set apart to support and hold each other accountable in our efforts to grow closer to God.
  4. Never lose sight of the fact that the primary purpose of a Christian Life Group is to build deep friendships rooted in Christ.
  5. Commit to remaining in a Christian Life Group for life. If for some reason the dynamic of the personalities in the group do not work for you, don’t stop meeting just look for a new group to join or form a new one.
  6. Remember very private things are shared in Christian Life Groups and everything that is shared in a group stays solely within the group.
  7. Groups should work hard to foster a “safe zone” where each participant can “bare their soul” and reveal to the other members of the group anything that they are struggling with that works to prevent them from having a deeper and closer relationship with our Lord.

I personally believe that in order to gain the full potential of your Christian Life Group you must allow time for everyone to discuss each of the three essential elements. As stated above in Broken Door Ministries we refer to these as communication, illumination and evangelization. I know other movements like Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, Via de Cristo, or Kairos might use different terms but they are all essentially the same.

Clearly, we all know Jesus spent time in prayer or Communication with His heavenly Father. I like the term communication because communication requires that we both speak and listen. Jesus taught us not only how to pray but also the importance of prayer. In Mark we read: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Luke had this to say: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Of course we all know Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Because we know it is important to communicate with God regularly we must make time in our Christian Life Group for each person to share every week as to how their prayer life is going. I think all of us would agree that there are times we feel closer to God than at other times. I have found that when I am in one of those dry spells in my prayer with God and then I listen to others share what they are doing in their prayer life it helps to get me back on track.

All of us should strive to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We need to always be progressing in our relationship with God. I refer to the process of enlightenment as Illumination.Illumination is the second essential element to be discussed each week. Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7. I think this emphasizes the importance of spending time reading the Bible and other spiritual books so that we can continually be growing in our knowledge of God.

St Augustine wrote: “Oh God ever the same, let me know myself, let me know you!” Life is a process of continually coming to know ourselves, both our faults and strengths. As we learn more about our strengths we can put them to the service of God and as God reveals our weaknesses to us we can turn them over to Him and rely on Him to help us.

Here are two key questions that everyone in the group should address under the topic of Illumination each week:

  • What has God revealed to me about me this past week?
  • What has God revealed to me about Him this past week?

The third essential element is Evangelization. Both our communication with God and our illumination of God and ourselves should guide us naturally to want to share this good news with others. Jesus told us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20. I have noticed over the 25 years that I have been in a Christian Life Group that there is a tendency to talk about “good things” we are involved in doing. We must be careful here. Remember even an atheist can do good things for other people. This is more than talking about good things. This time is set aside in our groups to discuss what we are doing to bring the news of Jesus Christ to others we encounter, whether in our family or circle of friends or in our work place or wherever we have the opportunity.

Now that I have shared with you what the essential elements are, I want to wrap up part two of Christian Life Groups by pointing out the need and importance of preparation. Prior to meeting with your group each week, take the time to write down your thoughts as to how you did in each of the three key areas. The best thing to do is to make time for silence. It is in silence that we can hear God. It is in silence that God can reveal to us what we should share with our groups.

A silent time of preparation prior to meeting with our groups is important for the following reasons.

  • Hiding from our thoughts and avoiding the discomfort of quiet doesn’t solve anything.
  • Silence is one of the most basic elements necessary for us to come face-to-face with ourselves, and to hear God’s voice, and see our way clear to healing and growth.
  • There is no way we can claim to hear God if we don’t first create space to listen to Him in silence

Psalm 46:10: tells us “Be still, and know that I am God.”

If you make time for adequate preparation you will discover that everyone in the group will benefit. Next week I will cover the three personality types that are present in all Christian Life Groups. Make sure you don’t miss it.

Heavenly Father, help us to grow in our relationship with you through our active participation in a Christian Life Group. Guide our sharing each week. Help to keep us on track. Help us not to wander into other topics. Lord we want to know you and serve you better, Amen.

Brian Pusateri
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