By Valerie Matyas
Hello, again, Small Group Leaders! If you are following the Pop Up Group Schedule found in the Ponder Anew Facebook Pop Up Group, you are about half way through the Hymn Journal. You have met several times and are learning more about one another. Way to go!
Whether your group was created for the purpose of moving through the Hymn Journal, or your group has been meeting for a long time, part of a healthy small group experience is cultivating an atmosphere where group members are feel comfortable to express, share, tell, or recognize a next step God is directing in their life.
Every group dynamic is different, and every small group leader is unique. Yet, the need for people to love and be loved is universal. Expressing and demonstrating love to your group will help to form and solidify connections that allow for mutual trust, healthy relationships, and courage to identify and take a next step following Jesus.
What sets your Ponder Anew: A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence small group apart from a bowling league, a book club, or a card club, is the very nature of the focus. Yes, you can have spiritual conversations while rolling strikes, diving into character/plot analysis, or skunking the other team, but a Hymn Journal sets you up from the onset to be focused on prayer, Scripture, hymn lyrics, and the sanctified life. The creative/contemplative nature of the study paves the way for conversations that go deeper than the surface.
I would like to offer a few ideas of how to show love and appreciation to your group. Remember their presence and participation is completely voluntary (as is yours!). When love, gratitude, appreciation, and encouragement is shared, I have found it comes back ten-fold. Not in the way the world speaks of karma, but in the way that love multiplies, fills up, pours over, and floods. We love because He first loved us. I love to love and be loved; you too?
So here are five Ideas for Expressing Appreciation, Encouragement, Support and Love (based loosely on Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages®️).
1) Express with Your Words
A warm smile and a friendly greeting go a long way in making someone feel comfortable. When a group member logs into the Zoom meeting, walks through the door, or shares a post on your group’s social media platform let them know you are happy to see the interaction or exchange.
- “Hey, welcome back!”
- “Glad to see you!”
- “Thanks for joining us.”
- “Love those colors, and the way you used the Scripture verse to frame the illustration.”
Use your words to welcome, build up, up lift, and encourage.
2) Express with Your Actions
As they say, actions speak louder than words. Take the extra step to set up the chairs and welcome members at the door. Share the correct link when someone is confused or resend the Zoom information if it gets lost. Use your actions to speak love.
Pray with your group, text a member to let them know you are thinking of them. Show love to your group through your actions.
3) Express with Your Hands
This one is easier when you are meeting face to face. A handshake, a fist bump, a hug or hand on the shoulder speak so loudly of love for some members. It is possible that you have people in your group who have had no physical contact with another human being for a prolonged period of time. If the situation calls for a hug, offer and give a hug; the gift of love is returned ten-fold.
Jesus met with people, he washed feet, he broke bread, he reclined, and lived with his disciples. He rubbed mud in the eyes of a blind man to restore sight. Jesus touched people and they were forever changed. Human beings need touch; if you are able, be willing and available to express welcome and acceptance through physical touch.
4) Express with Your Gifts
A gift doesn’t have to be extravagant to make an impact in the language of love. If you are meeting in person, pack a basket of supplies, bring enough to share, and ask nothing in return.
Small, inexpensive gifts unite a group and offer a sense of belonging. A bookmark, a prayer card, or a bedazzled paper clip open the door to say, “I was thinking of you, you matter, I appreciate you joining us.”
During our first Hymn Journal experience, Erica Eden, a small group leader for high school girls, purchased inexpensive coffee mugs from the dollar store. When the group met, each girl used her personal gifted mug for hot chocolate. At the conclusion of the meeting, the mugs were stored in a designated cabinet until the next meeting. That mug represented belonging, membership, and inclusion.
An extension of the idea would be for the members who graduate and move onto college be given their mug to take with them. The mug could serve as a reminder to the graduate that the group loves her and is still praying for her. Show love with your supplies.
5) Express with Your Time
We are a speedy culture that claims to have no time, yet relationships need time as much as plants need sunlight. Carving out an hour or two once a week to meet is a commitment; thank you for your commitment!
Now that you have set aside the time to be engaged with your group, be fully engaged. Tuck away your phone, turn off your notifications, and be present. Look people in the eye, use active listening, set the space and stage for conversation. Don’t fear silence, sometimes your quietest member needs the longest pause to start sharing. Give it time.
As you continue to establish Christ-centered community around Ponder Anew, look for ways you can express appreciation, encouragement, support, and love with your words, your actions, your hands, your gifts, and your time. You’ll only enhance the sense of community and togetherness your group has already begun to experience.
Thank you once again, dear small group leader, for your willingness and availability. Thanks for loving God’s people. Thanks for moving past the paralysis of perfection and allowing God’s perfect light to shine through your imperfections. Thanks for taking a next step.