Frank and Betty: Growing in Christ-centered Friendship
Story & Photos – Kyle English
Frank and Betty DiMarco have been leading a discipleship group out of Tacoma’s west end for the past year. For them, it has been a year marked with joy, growth, and rich blessings; all of which come from faithfully engaging in Christlike fellowship with others. I recently had the opportunity to meet with them and asked them to reflect on their experience as leaders.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LEADING A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP?
Frank: Watching friendships grow was one of the most enjoyable parts for me. I remember that first night of group when people just sat there and didn't really say much. It was uncomfortable.
We were all Christians, and yet there was this tension in the room. But you know, we’ve come such a long way from there to this past Tuesday night – we had a cookout in our backyard, cherry-spitting contests, laughing, and just having a good time together - I think that that's very enjoyable for me.
Betty: I definitely enjoy seeing the friendships grow, but I also think about our own personal growth and development. As we were preparing for group discussions, we had to be prepared ourselves. If we were talking about spiritual disciplines, to present that, we needed to be growing in all of those disciplines as well. That was an accountability thing for us that really strengthened my walk and my relationship with the Lord. I'm very grateful for that, for us individually and as a couple.
DID YOU HAVE ANY RESERVATIONS ABOUT BECOMING GROUP LEADERS?
Betty: I think that we were concerned about the amount of time that it would take. But you know, God blesses a commitment like this. It's turned into something very enjoyable, something that we want to do, and something that we have prioritized. When you look at the Bible, what does it say in Acts about the fellowship of breaking bread together, and praying together, and how important that is? It has just become a lifestyle for us. It's exciting when you can turn away from some of the worldly things that would pull you away and be more focused on something that helps us, and others, be more like Jesus. It has been a blessing, and it has not turned out to be a problem for us at all.
Frank: Time was something that held me back for a while. But I tell you, I just felt a nudging and a nudging and a nudging from the Lord that we were supposed to do this. We prayed on it, and then just trusted that God was going to work out all the details, which He did. We ended up so blessed with the group that we got. We’ve lost some people along the way - they moved, changed jobs, and those sorts of things - but we've really been blessed by those growing relationships.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED AS LEADERS AND HOW WERE THEY OVERCOME?
Frank: Well, one of the things that I had to watch out for is not giving too much input, in conversations, meetings, or groups. That was a challenge for me - to be thinking about questions and to engage as many people as possible – rather than just trying to give my own input. The other side of the challenge is to promote an understanding that we’re all helping each other to grow. I really liked that in our group there were people bringing things in to add to the study or sending emails with all kinds of resources and references.
Betty: I think one of the things that we were a little bit unsure of at first was how we were going to minister to the needs of everybody and pray for everybody. I think that having prayer partners on a weekly basis helped us a lot because you knew that you couldn't be responsible for everybody during the week. Trying to reconnect with everyone during the week can be a challenge when you’ve got a group of 12 or more. But in having prayer partners, we knew that people were communicating with each other, especially if there were special needs, crises, or struggles that they were going through; and that somebody else was there to reach out and help. That was encouraging.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU'VE SEEN GOD AT WORK IN THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP?
Frank: For me, the biggest one was a guy that had been disconnected from everything for a while when he came into our group. He was pretty withdrawn at first. But we got to watch him grow, and to watch him become more open; especially when the guys would break out into smaller groups. We would do some sharing and some good accountability, and he really grew a lot.
Betty: I think too that we're seeing people step up in ownership of things because they value the group. It’s really been a joy to see other people step in and do things. It's not just Frank and me leading now. It's taken time, and I think that it takes time to build trust and relationships. This is not something that has happened overnight, and I'm excited to see continued growth in the fall as we come back together.
I think spiritually I’ve seen people have more of a conviction and a heart for some of the spiritual disciplines, as we went through that; especially with our women's group. We were able to encourage each other with different tips and ideas as to how to be in the Word every day, how to excite and encourage our prayer life; and the material was so rich and so good that I think people grew in the spiritual disciplines; through the Word and through each other.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN BECOMING A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP LEADER?
Frank: If you are someone who feels that God is drawing you into a DG leader position, pray deeply on that. And then I would say if you have the sense to move forward, go for it. We have such a great set up in our church for leadership and discipleship training. There's a whole system of coaches who are there to support you, to facilitate monthly meetings to help iron things out and to help you to grow. It’s just a blessing to be in the kind of church that we have, one that's all in for discipleship, all in for solid Biblical teaching, and being part of the effort of moving our church forward; which means reaching people for Christ. Go for it!
Betty: We serve such a relational God, and we were not meant to do life alone. It’s just such a blessing to be part of a group of people that encourages one other to see their value as children of God; to love them well, and to help them meet their needs. There were so many times where we were able to meet the actual needs of people here - even simple things like taking somebody to the airport or bringing them food if they were sick or in the hospital - and those are the kinds of support things that make you a family. I just think it's such an important aspect of our faith that we can all live out our faith together as a group. It's empowering, it's exciting, and it's fun. I would say go for it too. It's been a great journey, and we're excited to continue!