Week 4 - Sent to Be Family
» WEEK 4 - SENT TO BE FAMILY
Unity and mutual care are a natural result of the Spirit being present among God's people. We see this lived out in Act 2:42-47. These new Christians were devoted to the teachings of Jesus, to prayer and to one another. They were a loving family and through them, God reached many more. He joined them together to be witnesses.
Like the early church, we have an opportunity to be this kind of family. To be devoted to Jesus and each other in a way that draws people in. This means your group and our church are not only a reflection of God's light (John 8:12) to one another we are also a beacon of light in our cities. A light of hope to those looking in (1 John 1:7; Matthew 5:16). As you will see below, this week's activity is all about reflecting God's light to each other through the sharing of testimonies. An activity that I hope will cause us to praise God and increase our love for one another.
I can't thank you enough for your commitment to helping our church be this type of family. As you gather each week, whether it's two people or twelve, you're taking part in kingdom work and helping God's people live on mission.
Grace and peace,
» SHARING TESTIMONIES ACTIVITY
(approx. time: 5 minutes)
Prayer - Allow time for the group to fill out a prayer card. Please take as many as you need from the bookshelf in the foyer. We printed hundreds for each group.
(approx. time: 65 minutes)
What Are Testimonies? - (This week to set up the activity a leader will need to read the following. This will help set up your time and guide the group through the process.)
Well, you may not realize it but 70 percent of the Bible is narrative! That means the primary way God has chosen to reveal himself is through storytelling. He uses this method to engage us on various levels: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical. As well, He has enabled us to be part of His story and to be a revelation of the gospel. Each of our stories uniquely reflects the glorious character, authority, and kingdom of God. These stories are called testimonies, also known as evidence of God's grace.
Typically, in the church, when we hear the word testimony we think of our life story or how we met Jesus. We also refer to these as our conversion stories. It is great to share those when we can. However, for this activity, we are going to learn to identify and share the smaller stories God has given us. Each of us has many of these - times when God has worked in our lives. These smaller stories are times when God is transforming us into the image of Christ. In sharing them they help remind us of God's grace. They encourage us and can provide opportunities to reveal God's goodness to others. So for tonight, we are going to begin by spending some time writing a few of these out.
Part 1 - Writing Out Testimonies
Let's take some time to write out 2-3 testimonies, ways God has worked in our lives personally. And please make sure to include at least one recent story from this last year.
An example could be: "God helped me through a season of loneliness this last year."
Part 2 - How Did God Change You
Now let's take some time to identify how God used these situations to change us. We'll do this by answering the following three questions:
What were you like before this story?
How did God use the circumstance to make you more like Jesus? (i.e, gave me new desires, humbled me, increased my love, joy or patience, removed guilt or shame, helped me to see Jesus as more glorious, helped me through a time of temptation, etc.)
What scriptures helped you embrace this truth?
An example could be: "I was feeling lonely and abandoned by God until he showed me that he is with me always and has never left me. He helped me become more dependent on Him through this and my trust of Him grew. Some verses that God brought to mind during that time were; Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20."
Part 3 - Sharing Stories
Now, lastly, we are going to take some time to share 1-2 of these stories with each other. You are welcome to add more to the story, however, let’s stay to 3 minutes per person so everyone gets a chance to share. Also, we want to respect each other by listening, paying attention and not sharing others stories outside the group unless we ask for permission first. Again, this as a time for us to be encouraged and grow in love for God and one another. So with that, who would like to be our timekeeper and who would like to go first?
If you have a group of 12 you'll need 36 minutes for everyone to share. You also want to allow time for people to respond in between. If it works best you can also move into smaller groups during this time. A benefit of the larger group is the opportunity to hear and know one another but depending on your situation it could also limit the number of people who are able to share.
The goal of this exercise has two parts: One, to help connect your group and encourage one another through the practice of sharing stories. Two, to help those in your group learn to see their "smaller" stories as part of God's bigger story and begin to learn how to share those with others.)
Two things to be aware of:
Follow up - make sure that as people share they are validated in some way. Nothing causes people to retract back more than them sharing and hearing crickets afterward. Saying things like; thanks for sharing, I really appreciate you sharing that, we are grateful that you are part of our group, praise God for the work he has done in your life, etc. all help to affirm people and helps to teach your group how they should respond.
Personalizing, prescribing or minimizing - don't allow people to start personalizing someone story to themselves i.e., "oh here is what I did when that happened to me...", "oh you think that's bad let me tell you about..." or "you just needed to do...". These type of responses can devalue a person's story or can be opportunities for others to inject their own experiences. Our goal is to learn about others and appreciate the unique story God has given them. Although someone's story might be similar it is never exactly the same.
If you would like, click HERE to download a worksheet for this activity.
(approx. time: 5 minutes)
Vision Cast - To close your time together, recap the main ideas and commend those that participated. Let the group know that next week you'll work through an activity where you learn how to use testimonies to engage in spiritual conversations with others. This is all part of being equipped to live as God's sent people. We want to know God through His Word and align ourselves with His will for our lives.