Authentic Community (Part 4)

 

Last week we talked about cultivating real authentic accountability in our small groups. We acknowledged the fact that many of us have had experiences with accountability that left us less than favorable towards cultivating it within our group. In this lifeline, I would like to suggest what elements make for non-productive accountability and conversely the elements that are essential for productive accountability.

  1. Non-productive accountability is forced! You must get the people in your group to willingly buy into the idea so that it is 100% voluntary.
  2. Productive accountability deals in specifics as opposed to generalities. For instance, general would be to say, “I’m struggling with a sin issue”, while specific would sound like, “I’ve noticed a pattern of sinful anger in my life when it comes to disciplining my children.” (Tip: as a leader you should gently ask clarifying questions when a person gives information that is very general).
  3. Non-productive accountability is a dump fest where people share their issues of sin and temptation but it doesn’t lead to change. Accountability functions best when there is follow up and intentionality about pursuing personal holiness. (Tip: be sure to celebrate spiritual victories when growth has occurred in a member’s life)
  4. Productive accountability is bathed in scripture as opposed to a lot of human advice/opinions. The question should always be, “How does scripture inform our thinking about this specific area of discussion?” (Tip: try to guard against too many opinions that are not anchored in scripture).
  5. Finally, productive accountability is down right surgical! It can be a painful process for people to get to the heart of an issue of spiritual deficiency but accountability aims at doing Romans 8:13, “Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.” Non-productive accountability simply puts a band-aid on a situation but people aren’t challenged to change/heal/grow.

I want to encourage you to use these elements in order to evaluate the way your group does accountability or to help you cultivate an element of accountability within your small group. If you’re at the beginning stages it is crucially important to cast vision to the group and to lead by example. I really believe that authentic accountability will help your small group grow deeper both relationally and spiritually.

Authentic Community (Part 3)

One of the ways I’ve seen God dispense a powerful measure of sanctifying grace in my life is through accountability with the people I’m in community with. This will be our topic for the next two Lifelines. Now let me just say that I am totally aware that your small group may not be ready for real accountability. We understand that. Real, authentic accountability can only develop over time, but what you must be aware of as a leader is that without “intentionality” it won’t develop!

In some Christian circles, there is a negative connotation when we think about accountability, a stigma even. Maybe you’ve tried it in the past and it yielded little fruit or maybe you were in an accountability group with someone who wasn’t trustworthy and you ended up getting burned. Whatever your past experience was or your present apprehension is, I believe with my whole heart that God can and will do amazing things to grow you and the members of your group in Christ-likeness, if you will be intentional about developing real, authentic accountability in your small group. Next week I’ll discuss some very practical things about accountability and give you some tips on implementation, but for today I want to give you two things to think about:

  • Accountability is not just for people who are struggling with a pattern of glaring immorality. Immorality is not the only thing that could shipwreck one’s faith, for instance:
    • A root of bitterness could destroy someone over time.
    • Pride/arrogance can lead to immeasurable sorrow.
    • Poor leadership in a marriage could lead to divorce.
    • Poor stewardship could lead to financial ruin and a crisis of faith.
  • Accountability is preventative—not just restorative! It functions as a preserving agent in the lives of believers who are deeply committed to practicing it in community.

What is the level of real accountability in your small group? Pray this week and ask God for his direction and ask him for the wisdom you will need to lead your group towards a deeper level of authentic, biblical accountability with each other.

Authentic Community (Part 2)

In a new small group, prayer requests can tend to be either superficial or they’re six degrees removed from the person who makes the request (“Please pray for my brother’s friend who has an aunt whose nephew has a dog that ran away from home”). As a small group grows and deepens relationally, people will begin to be more personal and vulnerable with their prayer requests. One of the ways you as a leader can show great care and encouragement to the members of your group is by following up with people who’ve expressed a specific and pressing prayer need.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do this:

  1. Never underestimate the power of a personal phone call. A great way to value the people you lead is to occasionally check in with them and ask for an update on their prayer concern.
  2. Allow for a monthly time of prayer updates and praises during group time.
  3. Pair people in the group into prayer partners who can check in with each other during the week. Each person in the group then has someone who is personally invested in ongoing prayer and following up.
  4. Send a text message to the person to let them know you prayed for their request that day.

It’s amazing how something so simple can serve people so well! One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to show people how valued they are and by following up with people who open up during prayer requests is a great way to do just that.

Authentic Community

There are many components that go into a fruitful small group experience such as bible study, prayer, fellowship, and caring for each other. While all of these elements are of great importance, the small groups team believes that level of authenticity and vulnerability among the group members is one of the key factors to maximize biblical community.

We ran across a list of questions that will help you and your group evaluate how you’re doing at pursuing authenticity and vulnerability with each other. In the coming weeks, pick 2-3 of these questions and work through them together in your small group. These questions are great for cultivating and maintaining authentic relationships in your small group!

• When was the last time you celebrated a victory over sin of another group member another group member’s victory over sin?
• When was the last time you admonished another member of your group in the area of speech, conduct, love, faith or purity?
• When was the last time you shared with your group what you personally read, learned and applied in your life from God’s word?
• When was the last time you discussed a spending decision with your group?
• When was the last time you discussed a giving decision with your group?
• Could you name the “Achilles heels” of others in your group? Could others name your’s?
• In what ways are you encouraging their growth in these areas?
• How have you helped them live wisely/be accountable based on your awareness?
• When is the last time you discussed, as spouses, the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s marriage?
• What was the last conflict in the group and how was it handled?
• When was the last time someone had to ask for forgiveness from the group?