Originally published Monday, 06 February 2012.
Community. There’s a longing in each of us for it.
For the past two years, I have had the great privilege of leading a thriving 20-something community group. We started as a group of 4 and have maxed out at thirty-five [my house just can’t fit any more people]. This is an eclectic group; no two people are exactly alike and I’ve faced some leadership challenges along the way.
Many leaders have said this generation is hopeless and the gospel is being watered down in their lives but I’m seeing the total opposite. These 20-somethings have a desire for God’s Truth in their lives; they just need a safe environment to seek an understanding of this Truth.
Deciding to invest into this generation through a Bible study, Sunday school class or community group is one of the greatest decisions a leader can make.
There’s going to be some specific things you can do along the way to build a thriving group…
1. Create a comfortable atmosphere.
Besides having comfortable seating or a nice smelling room, you as the leader set the tone of the atmosphere.
Give everyone the opportunity to speak. It takes some practice to steer the conversation in the right direction. I have found that asking individuals to respond to a “specific” question is an effective way to get everyone involved in the discussion.
Also, our group used to share prayer requests at the end of the group but it was taking thirty extra minutes and some individuals were uncomfortable sharing this way. Now we share prayer requests through email or through our Facebook community page. Everyone seems to respond better this way and this has also been a way to respect the time-frame of the group.
2. Don’t hold people too tight.
Each person in our community group knows they are loved and wanted but are free to move on when it's time. They know I will never make them feel guilty for going to another group. But they also know it’s important to me that they keep trying to build community.
It’s also important as a leader you continue to pull out the potential of the people in your group. I have a team of three 20-somethings I’m investing into their leadership skills, so in the coming months they will begin their own community groups.
As hard as it is to let people go, we have to be open to the movement of God in their lives.
3. Give grace, but challenge commitment.
Getting 20-somethings to commitment can be a challenge. They face schedule conflicts more than any other age group. As the leader it’s important that you don’t take those scheduling conflicts personal but you are also willing to have conversations with those who miss out consistently.
Many 20-somethings have never been a part of community before and don’t understand the importance of their commitment to the group. Taking the time to explain this to your 20-somethings will be a growth opportunity for them.
4. Be willing to “go” there.
This generation desperately needs a non-judgmental environment where they can bring their questions about God, the Church and the Bible. I never reject a topic or question they want to discuss.
While we openly discuss relevant topics, things can get a little intense. Many 20-somethings are coming from backgrounds where they didn’t go to church as kids. So, many of their opinions come from a world-perspective and this is the first time they are being exposed to God’s Truth. As a leader, it’s important to not make your 20-somethings feel judged for the way they believe, yet still steer them in a direction of understanding God’s Word.
These are just a few tips that I’ve learned along the way. I want to be a voice of Truth in this generation and I know that comes from staying in a posture of learning how to come along side of them.
Today in the comments I’d love for us to share our experiences in building community:
If you are a leader, what are some other tips you have for building a thriving community?
If you are in some type of community group, what are some things you desire from community?