Author Archives: timothyrevis

Growth, Relationships, and Faith

Simply put, one of the key points of having Grow Together groups is to “grow together” in Jesus Christ. That means growing in our understanding of what the Bible tells us about God, faith, and the gospel of Jesus Christ (the story of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension – and eventual return); and how that all applies to how we live out our lives on a day-to-day basis in a world that needs our example as light in the darkness. That’s a long-winded way of describing “becoming devoted followers of Jesus Christ” – our mission.

It should be every group’s goal to approach that growth through learning/studying using various methods, such as books, small group specific materials like DVDs series, or even just straight-up Bible study (perhaps following the current sermon series). Learning is one way in which we grow in our faith, encounter transformation, and become devoted followers.

But faith (and life in Christ) is more than just a cognitive process – faith is always relational.

Our need for relationships is echoed throughout Scripture. We see it first and foremost in the Trinity – three persons in one God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is in this image that God made us, saying, “Let us make mankind in our image, our likeness” (Gen 1:26). We’re designed for relationship. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18)  [emphasis added – both times]. Likewise, one of the first things Jesus did when he began His earthly ministry was to gather disciples around Himself (a larger group from which He later selected the 12 Apostles; Luke 6:13). When Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go before Him, He “sent them out two by two” (Luke 10:1). Relationships are God’s plan for everyone.

So, as group leaders, one of our goals should be to try foster an environment that helps build relationships within your Grow (or Serve) Together group community. An important aspect of group meetings is always learning about Jesus Christ and how we our lives can reflect His perfect love in the world and our own community. But it’s not just all about learning (though that is very important).

Small group meetings should be structured so that they have both a learning component and a social (relational) component (whether before or after the learning time or both). Use this relaxed time for people to catch up about doing life together. This will help provide an environment that helps build Christian relationships that leads to transformation; that is, becoming devoted followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ.

Remember, we were never meant to do any of this alone.

In Christ…

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

 

 

 

Open Chair > Open Door > Growing Community

Church is not about Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Church is not about a building on MacArthur road (or any other building). Church is about the people of God acting in community to share the message of God – the gospel – the Good News – with people around them. The key to this sharing is community.

We have spent a lot of time talking about the open chair concept for Grow Together groups. I have heard from several leaders who have fully embraced the open chair by actually having the “open” (empty) chair present in their meetings. That’s awesome! That empty chair serves as a reminder for everyone in the group that growth can (and should) happen through the small group experience (both for people already in the group, as well as newcomers). That the group should be a growing community, especially for those seeking to be the church.

However, while you may have an empty chair, we also need to ask – do you have an open door?

That empty chair will never get filled unless you have an open door, where you’re actively inviting others into your small group community. The idea is to fill that empty chair. So please consider not only having an empty chair, but having an open door and actively inviting others to come in and fill that empty chair (then you’ll need another empty chair, which is very cool!).

Lastly, prayerfully consider seeking people out and extending that invitation to people in your immediate community – meaning your neighbors (i.e., in your neighborhood, on your street or block). Remember that people do not necessarily have to be members or attend FCC to participate in your group. Inviting those people into your group (and to Grow with you) extends the love of Christ and the blessing of the gospel message to those who may not have any idea who Jesus Christ even is.. That is just one way of being the church, within the context of the small group community. Let us know how it goes – we’re here to help, but we especially want to hear about Grow Together group wins!

In Christ…

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

P.S., also, please point those people you are mentoring to this blog and encourage them to subscribe to it!

 

Need Help? Reach out!

Hi, Grow Together Leaders!

This is just a quick reminder that we’re here to help. When things are going smoothly, that’s a sweet thing and we can praise God for the blessing of the Holy Spirit working in your group. But if you’re struggling with something (or someone), it can quickly become overwhelming and even discouraging. Alternately,  you may just have a question or need advice/direction on a decision that is before you.

Whatever the case, we’re here to help and be a resource to you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. Reaching out can be via email or phone call, or grab Pastor Brian or myself on the weekend (I’m on worship team most weekends) – we may be able to help right then or it may necessitate scheduling time to discuss it (depending on the situation).  In any case, a personal contact (even if it begins via email) is best.

We pray that things are going well for you and your group, but if they’re not, we definitely need to pray for that also. Nothing is too big for us to handle together (you, us [me and Brian], and the Holy Spirit).

In Christ…

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

P.S., also, please point those people you are mentoring to this blog and encourage them to subscribe to it!

 

Being Intentional

The INTENTIONAL CHURCH CONFERENCE is a one-day event designed for ANYONE serving in ANY capacity in the local church (which includes you – if you’re reading this right now). Our featured speaker this year will be Dr. Don Wilson, pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Arizona, and there will also be 15 breakout sessions.

You may be asking yourself, “What does this conference have to do with me?”

As a GROW or SERVE TOGETHER group leader, you will definitely want to hear from Don Wilson. His church, Christ’s Church of the Valley, is built on a model of neighborhood-based small groups that carry out large and small-scale service projects tailored to meet the needs of local families, schools & communities.

Does that sound familiar? Absolutely! At First Christian Church, we not only want to help you grow spiritually, but we also encourage everyone to share the Gospel throughout the community – with those in need, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. You may discover something new that your group can implement together.

ICC 2014 - Widescreen (1920x1080)

Also, here are some breakout sessions that you as a GROW or SERVE TOGETHER group leader may be interested in attending:

  • Tough Questions, Biblical Answers (10:30am) – Every generation of Christians has faced tough questions created by changes in cultural thinking. Our moment in time is no different. This workshop will examine how the Bible and the biblical worldview narrative helps us respond to the tough questions of our time.
  • Room for Doubt (1:30pm) – Do you ever have doubts about your faith or know others who do? Among 18-29 year olds with a Christian background, 38% have significantly doubted their faith at some time; 23% have significant intellectual doubts; and 10% feel that they are not allowed to talk about their doubts in church. We will offer some guidelines for how we can have, and communicate, a confident faith that still makes room for doubt.

The cost is $20 for advance registration or $25 after Friday, April 18. Lunch is included!

To register, visit firstdecatur.org/icc2014 (or click on the image above).

Brian and I look forward to see you there!

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

P.S., also, please point those people you are mentoring to this blog and encourage them to subscribe to it!

 

Explore Leading Class – WED NITE LIVE

It really is quite rare for someone to actually be a “born leader.” However, that doesn’t mean that anyone else isn’t leadership material or can pull it off with great effectiveness. 

Jumping in to a leadership role can be an uncertain thing for many people, if not downright scary – particularly if you haven’t done this sort of thing before. It’s often a leap of faith. So how can we, as leaders, get those in our Grow Together groups who may be hesitant to take the leap in to group leading to take that leap?

Albert Einstein said it best: “When the solution is easy, God is answering.”

Guess what? God answered. The solution is easy. It’s the Explore Group Leading class coming soon to a Wednesday Night Live near you!

Explore Leading

We’ve been talking a lot the past few months about identifying others in your groups that can lead a group themselves. Perhaps they just need someone to encourage them to take the leap. Most leaders didn’t come out of the womb that way – they just had someone believe in them at some point, to have faith in them.

So, believe in someone and encourage them to attend the Explore Group Leading class on March 12th and check it out. Remind them that attending this class does not commit them to taking on leading a Grow Together group, but it will answer many questions they may have and ease uncertainty about taking the leap.

In Christ…

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

P.S., also, please point those people you are mentoring to this blog and encourage them to subscribe to it!

When A Big Deal Is Too Big?

Too often, as small group leaders, we think we have to have all (or at least most of) the answers. When a difficult situation arises in a group that we’re not quite sure how to handle, the tension can be thick and difficult to deal with (both within the context of the group meeting itself, as well as within our own internal consciousness). We can feel somehow “unequipped” as a leader. We feel like, as the “leader,” we should know how to handle these things. After all, aren’t we there to care for and shepherd our people?

Yes – we are. But, guess what? You don’t.

It’s a fact that situations very well may come up that cause this kind of stress and tension in the group – perhaps even making some (or many) people uncomfortable as a result. These types of things may be related to a marital problem  a member/couple may be having, an addiction issue, a legal matter, or some other serious situation.

You need to understand that some things shouldn’t be dealt with in a small group (by the leader, or anyone else). Sure, you and the group are there to support each other in times of struggle and pain, but you also have to realize that you’re not a counselor and a small group is not a counseling session (even if you actually are a “counselor” or have one in your group). Some things are simply out of bounds. These are the situations I described above that can cause tension and stress within the group.

The best thing you can do is to recognize when something’s too big a deal to deal with in small group and stop it from being a topic of discussion at the time. You may even need to tell the person that this (the small group meeting) is not an appropriate forum for this kind of discussion. (this conversation is ideally done on the side, though that’s not always possible)  Next, recommend that the person(s) seek advice and counseling from a pastor or professional counselor (which you probably are not). Again, even if you have a pastor or professional counselor in your group, there’s a time and place for everything (and this isn’t it).

So, what can you do? Pray. You don’t need to know the details of the situation. Just pray for the person(s) and the situation. Remember this – the biggest single thing that differentiates groups that grow are ones where the leader prays for the group and its members regularly!

In Christ…

timrevisscrxipt

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NIV)

Opening A Door for Others

You’ve probably heard us talk before about the importance of the “Open Chair” philosophy for Grow Together groups. If you’ve had the opportunity to use the SHIFT curriculum, you may also remember Pastor Brian and Pastor BJ talking about it.

If not, please allow me to explain… small groups are either “open” or “closed.” Open groups accept new members, while closed groups do not. The most common reason for groups being closed are that they’ve reached their maximum number of members for the group (which is not always a hard fast number, but is usually about a dozen). Sometimes groups are closed because of the nature of the group – for example, support type groups.

It’s our desire that no groups be closed – even if they reach a certain number of members. When a group reaches a certain size, an opportunity exists to launch one or two people (or a couple) to lead a new group. You’ve probably heard us talk about apprenticing potential leaders in your group specifically for this purpose.

Getting back to the “Open Chair” though… As you might imagine, the Open Chair model is where you literally have a empty (open) chair set up in your meetings representing the person who might/could be there. This serves as a powerful illustration to your group for sharing the opportunity with other people to get connected in the Grow Together ministry and the benefit of the community and growth that Grow Together groups provide. Ultimately, the purpose of groups is to build community, provide support for each other, to learn more about Jesus Christ and where we fit in God’s kingdom plan, and grow closer to Jesus Christ in our daily lives (in church-talk that’s called “discipleship”).

In his book A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, author Rick Howerton discusses the fallacy that open groups hinder evangelism and intimacy (openness and sharing) among members of a group. However, research has shown that that just isn’t true. He cites research by Jim Egli (who has a PHd in Small Group Ministry), saying…

“Open groups actually experience significantly more community than closed groups! … If you want to experience deeper community in your small groups, you should make it an open group that is actively reaching out to others”

So, you can see how an Open Chair in your group can not only lead to a richer small group community experience for you and your current members, but can help extend that opportunity to others. Don’t be afraid of embracing the Open Chair – it’s a good thing! Beside, it seems like the Christian thing to do… don’t you think?

In Christ…

timrevisscrxipt

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NIV)

Launchable Leaders

We challenge Grow Together group leaders to identify others in their groups that might (will) make good small group leaders. As the ‘point person’ (leader) in your group, the idea is to identify others who could be a point person (or couple – or two) for launching a new group.

However, we should consider the question: what’s a “leader” look like?

Some people just don’t see themselves as leaders. Why? Because we tend to look at what makes a “leader” from a secular context. Many of us are used to looking at what a leader is through the filter of the work or corporate management context or the proverbial “fearless leader” image or the type of person who always “steps up.” Some people just don’t (nor do they want to) see themselves in that light.

That’s not the type of leader we’re talking about here.

The Biblical view of being a leader is less about being “the boss” or “in control” and more about being a servant.

servant-leadership-sqThe Biblical small group leader takes what Paul says to the Philippians to heart – “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4, ESV). It’s impossible to do this without approaching being a leader from the context of a servant’s heart.

The Biblical small group leader values other’s growth in Christ as much as their own. They lead others in their group to have this same perspective by their own example (in prayer and in deed). They want others to experience the same love of (and for) Christ on a daily basis as they do in their lives. This includes those in their group, as well as those who may not have ever even experienced the warmth and growth of a small group community, and only think of church in the context of the “shoulder-to-shoulder” weekend worship experience.

Are there other qualities of a good small group leader (planning, facilitating discussion, etc.)? Sure, but let’s focus on this one for now – the servant leader – it’s the most important  (as far as Grow Together groups are concerned) and is the underlying driver behind all those other qualities. So, while some may not see themselves as “leaders,” many people are leaders and don’t realize because of a preconceived idea of what a leader is and does.

So, watch for people in your groups with a servant heart and help them understand that they do have the qualities of a good Biblical leader (the rest is, as they say, “academic”). Don’t let them sell themselves short. Chances are you have many (if not all) people in your Grow Together group fit this idea of what a leader really is.

In Christ…

Tim Revis

 

 

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
1 Peter 5:2-3 (NIV)

 

Being

Worship is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Different people will have different responses to the question, “what is worship?” Sometimes, the answer is, it’s what we do at church on Sunday morning (or Saturday evening, in the case of FCC). Ultimately, worship is whatever we do that honors and brings glory to God – including corporate worship on the weekend (i.e., “church”).

But what is “church?” Is church a place of worship? A place of refuge? A place where we can come together as a community of believers? A place where we go to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power it has to change lives? A place to turn to when we’re in need of help and support? A place where we can lay our sins down and seek forgiveness for our sins? A place where we’re accepted regardless of who we are or where we come from?

Yes. All of the above would be true. Coincidentally, the exact same is (or should be) true of small groups.

Craig Van Gelder writes that, “we tend to limit church to what we do together on Sunday morning and diminish the idea that church is primarily about living together in a distinct way in the world.”

What Van Gelder is saying is that, church isn’t just on Saturday evening/Sunday morning. The church is not a building, nor is it an activity we partake on the weekend. We are the church.

Yes, the church is all the things mentioned above, with the outcome on our lives (hopefully) being each of us living “in a distinct way in the world.” That distinct way sets us apart from the world.

Small group ministry is one way that we do that, becoming an extension of what we do in the weekend worship service – though on a smaller and in some ways more personal level. It’s a place we come together as a (small) community of believers, to learn and better understand, to share, support, laugh, and cry together, as people sharing Christ’s love for us with each other – sitting in a circle, as opposed to shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s a place and a way for us to extend our growth in ways that help our brothers and sisters in Christ come together in the form of a small group community. It’s a place and a way for us to “live together” in a way that others will see as distinct – and want to experience that same distinction in their lives as well.

Small groups are yet another expression of being the church.

I pray blessings on each of you – for clarity as leaders, a sense of mission, love for each other, and growth in Christ in the coming year as we each seek daily to become more fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

In His name….

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

trevis@firstdecatur.org

217.725.9089 (call anytime)

 

Christmas – the mixed bag

Christmas is unlike any other holiday, for many reasons (other than the obvious – celebration of the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ). Christmas (including the entire Christmas season, but especially the day) brings with it a Santa bag full of emotions for many of us.

The celebration of the birth of the Christ Child is a joyous occasion that’s unparalleled. The anticipation of and finally the actual opening of gifts is a fun thing. Watching others open heartfelt gifts we’ve given imbues a special satisfaction that comes from imparting that happiness to others. The hustle and bustle that goes along with preparing for those times can be demanding, if not down right aggravating at times.

Still, there’s the melancholy remembrance of loved ones we’ve lost (nearly always too soon) – when the lost has been recent, the surrealness and pain is all the more acute. Families may simply be separated or full of conflict and drama worthy of its own reality TV show. Perhaps the mixed bag of emotions includes the pain of lost jobs or relationships that seem to collapsed out of nowhere, and the uncertainty that invariable accompanies such tragedies.

Your life experience almost certainly includes at least two or more of these situations. Regardless, life on planet earth is a mixed bag that we cannot fix (or even deal with, in many cases) on our own. That’s why the Christ Child was born. To help us deal with things that cannot be fixed, to provide us with hope to bring to our lives that which we cannot gain on our own – love, hope, anticipation of a better tomorrow. But more importantly – salvation.

So, as we wrap up Christmas 2013, remember the God became flesh and dwelt among us – Immanuel – God among us. Our hope is found by placing our heart in His hands. Look towards the new year with a renewed hope and trust in the One who came to earth so He could better understand both our joys and our struggles in a real and tangible way. Encourage your groups to respond by being different from the culture around us in 2014 by the way we live, act, walk, and talk. By worshiping the One through who all things were made with all that we are – Jesus Christ.

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

tim.revis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089