Fresh start for our groups
Our Community Groups at First Baptist Church are all relaunching soon, and with a fresh start comes new excitement and renewed commitment. I am excited for the energy people will bring to their groups after a couple months off. The desire for deeper relationships and further growth brings fresh motivation, and the initial momentum will carry groups a long way into the fall.
In an effort to bolster the initial momentum, our groups will be creating group covenants together this fall. I have observed that a number of churches do this for their groups and thought it would be a help to our groups as well. There are a number of reasons why we have chosen to develop group covenants this fall, and here are four.
4 reasons we are creating group covenants this fall
1. Create a shared vision for the group
Getting everyone on the same page and moving toward a shared vision of the future is vitally important. A team of 12 to 16 dogs pulling in the same direction can win the Iditarod, but the same set of dogs will get nowhere if they deviate from the correct path or try to pull in opposite directions. The covenant we are using is intended to help our groups create a shared vision of the future they want for their group. In the weeks and months ahead, a reminder of this vision will help them continue along the same path.
2. Establish expectations for one another
This is closely linked to having a shared vision. The difference is that a shared vision is more about where we see ourselves going, while clear expectations bring clarity to how we expect one another to act on our way to that preferred future. It is about how we will engage with one another in the present. Having a frank conversation about these expectations now will enable us to hold one another accountable to those expectations when they are broken. Establishing clear expectations now will give us the ability to press one another to follow through on our commitment to those expectations in the future.
3. Increased commitment
Commitment can be hard for people. It can feel like we give up part of ourselves and our freedom when we commit to someone or something. I would argue that making a commitment to something (ie. a group) is not as much about losing freedom, but actually about making an intentional decision regarding where we will invest ourselves. Soren Kierkegaard makes an argument that when a person pursues freedom through limiting their commitments, they are actually giving up even more freedom, because they are being controlled by external circumstances rather than intentional decisions. One of the greatest sources of freedom is making a conscious choice about what commitments will impact you. When our groups sign their covenant together, they are making a commitment to one another. This commitment will become important in the future to help them continue to invest in their group, even when they feel like they may not want to anymore.
4. Create a healthy rhythm for the year
Life is lived in seasons, creating rhythms to our lives. As the weather changes throughout the year and we experience fall, winter, spring and summer, new emotions and experiences come. The cooler temperatures have already helped me anticipate the fall, causing me to think more about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Apple Orchards - which makes me think of treasured date nights with my wife and special times with my family. Life has many different seasons in it and these changes help to orient our lives. New semesters in school, graduations, new jobs, getting married, having children, moving homes and other events create markers which help us remember important seasons.
The covenants our groups are signing will include a one-year commitment. This means that each fall everyone will have the opportunity to pray and consider whether they will recommit to their group, possibly look for another group or take a needed break from groups all together. My assumption is that the majority of people will recommit to their groups each fall, while those people who need to make a change will take the opportunity to do so. This rhythm of creating a covenant each fall and making a new commitment will help us maintain healthy group dynamics and fresh energy.
If you would like to download a copy of the form I have provided to our group leaders to help them create their covenants, you can download here.
Question: How do you think group covenants could help your own group this fall? If you have any experience with group covenants, please share that in the comments as well.