We call our smaller gatherings life groups because they serve two purposes: to process life together and to study the words of life. We were inspired by Peter’s comment to Jesus in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (NIV)
A life group is a group of students who gather weekly to encourage one another, pray for one another, and learn about following Jesus. A life group is not just a Bible study and is not just a support group; instead, a life group is a place where people talk freely about their lives as they examine the words of life. Both matter and they feed off of one another.
Life groups are led by teams of two to three mature believers, and ideally one of the leaders is a veteran life group leader mentoring the other leaders.
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Superficial community exists at nearly every level of our lives, and we often settle for involvement in clubs and groups and miss out on powerful relationships. Your life group should be a safe place where people feel freedom to be real and take risks in sharing their dreams, their joys, and their struggles. The first step to creating this environment should be taken by the leaders.
Always remember that being responsive to the needs of the individuals in the group is more important than following a set agenda, because a life group is a place where loving each other IS the agenda.
This also means that you meet with the members of your life group outside of your weekly gathering. You can’t meet with everyone weekly, but you should pick two to four to meet with regularly and try to meet with everyone at least once a quarter (this can be as simple as grabbing coffee together or shooting hoops or inviting them to watch a movie in your room). The purpose of the meetings is to provide an opportunity for discipleship - to them it may just look like you’re hanging out but it is something you are doing on purpose.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1
Your task is not to be taken lightly. Be committed to diligently prepare for your life group time. And be encouraged - the Holy Spirit will equip you for what He has gifted and called you to do.
You are not delivering a sermon, you are guiding a discussion. Most of your preparation time should be spent trying to understand the passage or topic you’re covering and then crafting good questions to guide people to the heart of the matter. It is often helpful to open with five or so minutes of basic explanation.
There are many resources available to help you prepare well. Three that you should always check are:
xaatuva.com (click on “Resources”) - these are life group studies (they call them core groups) from Chi Alpha at the University of Virginia, one of the largest and most respected Chi Alpha ministries in the nation.
chialpha.com (click on “Resources”) - resources on the national XA website
soniclight.com (click on “Study Notes”) - these are free PDF commentaries on every book of the Bible.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
Don’t seek to offer something to your members that you don’t have. Maintain a vibrant relationship with Christ. Make filling yourself up with God’s Word your first priority, and then passing that along to others will require less effort, as you’ll be offering directly from your heart. You will be meeting with a staff member either weekly or every other week who will check in on you, pray for you, and offer you mentorship.
We announce the message about Christ, and we use all our wisdom to warn and teach everyone, so that all of Christ's followers will grow and become mature. That's why I work so hard and use the mighty power he gives me. Colossians 1:28-29, CEV
The ultimate goal of your investment in your members’ lives is to encourage them to grow closer to God. Help them mature in intimacy with God and the knowledge of the truth. Among other things, this means that you need to pray for the members of your life group. Keep a list and pray through it regularly. You are encouraged to pray the apostolic prayers over your life group. Glen has a handout on this, and if you don’t have a copy you should email him so he can send you one.
This also means that you challenge them to be committed to your life group. You are inviting them into a wonderful adventure of spiritual growth, and it is one of the most important things that they are doing. Tell them that. In one of the first meetings of the quarter tell them that your hope is that they will treat this with the same level of commitment that they bring to a project group for a class. Your goal is to build community and that is hard to do with people dropping in and out all the time.
This should be a no-brainer, but it needs to be said clearly. If you are a life group leader in Chi Alpha then you are a leader in Chi Alpha.
And as a leader, we want you have a heart focused towards serving and building the entire Chi Alpha community - not with simply cultivating your own little parcel of it.
These are some common-sense outworkings of that principle:
On the flip side:
90% of the time, our future life group leaders will emerge from our existing life groups. Keep your eye out for underclassmen who exhibit the character and competence necessary to lead a life group. Begin giving them responsibilities (handle the prayer time, prepare a lesson one week when you’re overwhelmed, etc) and helping them develop in their skills.
The ideal leadership structure is one veteran with two apprentices. Ideal times to bring someone on are at the start of fall quarter and at the start of winter quarter. Winter Quarter is an especially good time to bring frosh on as apprentices.
To bring someone on as an apprentice, do the following:
1) Talk about it with whoever is over life groups. They might know something you don’t.
2) Ask them face to face if they would like to help you lead life group this quarter.
3) Read through this document with them so they know what you’re asking them to do.
4) Debrief with them after every life group (whether they lead or not) to help them evaluate things like a veteran life group leader. This shouldn’t take hours and hours. Fifteen minutes will often be sufficient. “Did you notice that so-and-so wasn’t saying much tonight? I’m going to give them a call and make sure they’re doing okay. We need to be attentive to stuff like that.”
The summer before fall quarter begins: find a handful of people who share your heart for life group. Recruit them to be part of your core team.
Budget your time: leading a life group well will take 6-10 hours per week (the prep time, the meeting time, the debrief, one-on-one meetings with life group members, your regular meeting with your staff resource person) in addition to your attendance at a XA worship service (2 hours). Bear this in mind while scheduling classes and extracurricular commitments.
During class scheduling time: be in touch with your core and schedule life group around their convenience as soon as possible.
As classes begin: you and the core invite people like crazy. Make it as personal as possible. Five individual invitations give a much higher yield than one invitation to five people. And remember this: no one will care about your life group more than you do. If you do not recruit people for your life group do not expect that others will do it for you.
The first week of class: plan to meet even if it you think it will just be you and your core. People may show up from our online directory and it would be super awkward if you weren’t there to great them.