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Northview Stories Bryan Ault's Story: Leading a Life Group

April 21, 2021

Bryan Ault's Story: Leading a Life Group
By Bryan Ault

My wife was serving on the team of the spring Discipleship Walk. When she returned, she felt convicted to get back into a Life Group and noticed Northview was opening up registration. Because the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 had just hit, we entered a Zoom-based Life Group.

After three sessions, we were walking at a park when my phone buzzed.

“Hey Bryan,” said a pastor. “I was wondering if you’d like to lead the Life Group.”

I was shocked. I thought, "Why me?" I’ve been following the Lord for 20 years, but I knew many others have been following him longer. I also knew, at age 30, I was the youngest member of the entire group. I also wondered if I could handle the additional responsibility.

I told the pastor I would call him back the next morning. I proceeded to make every effort to convince myself not to do it, kind of like Moses did at the burning bush. I could also feel the Holy Spirit answering my concerns. "Will anybody like me?" God will take care of that. "I’m too young." You’re 30 years old, moron. "I'm not-left handed." Who cares?!

So after prayer, and the support given by my wife, I said yes to the leadership role in the Life Group. No doubt, this was one of the greatest decisions I/we ever made.

A little bit about our group: We span the spectrum. We cast a big net across experiences, races, cultures, education and professions. We have a relatively new believer in our group, and we have members who have been devoted Christians for four decades. We have blue- and white-collar workers. There are married couples, dating couples, singles without children and single mothers. Only one person has ever left our group, and that’s because she moved to Georgia to be with her daughter who was going through a difficult time. We do miss her!

One key thing about our group is that we meet every week at the same time, day, and place. Why? One week is seven days. A lot can happen in seven days. Just ask Jesus. On Palm Sunday, he was a free man. He was arrested on Thursday. He was tortured and killed on Friday. He rose again on the next Sunday. Quite an eventful week.

Similarly, one week in our lives can be eventful. I am a firm believer that meeting weekly has led to our members' growth and success. When we get a new person, I am always very honest after we finish introducing ourselves. I tell them: “We will share prayer requests. We meet every week unless it’s a holiday. Whether you make it is up to you. But we will meet and go through a lesson (usually on RightNow Media), whether it’s a full house or just two people here. We do that because we are always here for you.”

Knowing where we stand on that policy has been beneficial. Group members want to be there. At a recent meeting, one person told us she was exhausted and had a headache, but she wanted to make it, so she brewed coffee, took an Advil, came, and was glad she did. We structure our lives around our group, not the group around our lives. We make it a priority.

We also believe it has provided closeness and made a significant impact because we have established a safe place. Now, when I say, “safe place,” I do not mean it in the modern, neoliberal activist sense. Today, the world defines a “safe place” to mean where you are free to express your opinion without listening to someone else, that is intolerant of another viewpoint. That is not a safe place. That is a place to lecture, demean, and demoralize other people. That is not what I mean.

What I do mean is a place where you can feel confident to truly express what’s on your heart and mind and find support, a place of mutual trust and respect. The more often you meet someone, the closer they’re likely to feel and the more open they’ll be. Our meetings are never dull or stoic. People laugh. People cry. There is emotional connectedness. That is so important for any Life Group and ministry.

Another area of strength is that our group members have become very involved in our church. Ten of the 12 members of our group attended a church leadership event called Momentum. People in our group are engaged with the church. They buy in. Those are our strengths.

Challenges?

A potential one we see on the horizon is our size. We are now up to 12 people with a very high attendance rate. We have the frustrating blessing of having high interest! We are afraid of being too big, which can dull closely-knit relationships. But we also do not like the feeling of being closed off. We have told the church we want to be closed to new members. The problem, however, is that we all know people who need to be in a Life Group. Do we open it up to a bigger group? If so, we will need to find a bigger place to meet and figure out how to keep our relationships strong and steady without losing anyone we care for now. Do we keep it closed and risk alienating people we want to join? These are questions we will need to answer heading into the future.

Leading a group is important for our church, and it carries responsibility. Church, and life, really happens on the micro-scale of small groups. I hope these words motivate readers to improve their group leadership or start their own group in the near future.

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