In a recent conversation with a pastor from another church, I was asked:
“Practically, how do you go about forming Life Transformation Groups in a small group that is used to meeting once a week?”
I actually get that question quite often, so I thought it would make a good topic for a post here. Briefly, there are three things that will be helpful in launching LTGs from a more traditional small group.
Before you read below, you might want to brush up on Life Transformation Groups.
Model LTG for the Whole Group
Most small groups have a regular gathering where they study the bible, fellowship, and pray. As a leader wanting to implement LTGs, this is a great place to start! Rather than immediately breaking people up into twos and threes, however, I think it is critically important to model what you want to see happen for the whole group. Try modeling the three aspects of LTG in front of your entire community one evening:
- Hear and Obey – as a leader, pull out your journal where you have written your examination and application of God’s word for your life this week. It’s important to show everyone how you have been reading and applying God’s word, so I encourage people to simply read straight from their REAP journal.
- Repent and Believe – as a leader, you will need to be vulnerable in front of your entire group and confess sin that you have struggled with. It might be a good idea beforehand to share what you are going to share with someone else, so they can be prepared to model gospel-fluency in front of your group as well. Alternatively, invite the entire group to minister the good news of Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection specifically into your sin. Answer these questions: How did Jesus obey where you didn’t? How did Jesus specifically pay the penalty for that sin? What is true about your identity in Christ? What promises of God can help you fight that specific sin?
- Consider and Pray – finally, you can spend time sharing opportunities you may have, or people that you will be spending time with in the coming week with the group. Ask a few of them to pray by name for those individuals, and that God would use you powerfully to declare and demonstrate the gospel!
Spend Six Weeks Practicing LTGs in Your Regular Gathering
Once you’ve modeled how to do an LTG, the next step is to practice it in your regular meeting time for a few weeks. Six weeks is somewhat arbitrary, but it’s enough time for people to get comfortable with the format, and also practice it with a few different people.
The first thing you need to do is clearly cast vision for an expectation of individuals in your group being prepared to share something from what they read in the Scriptures. Second is that you make sure that the LTG time doesn’t last more than an hour – try to stick to the 15 minutes for Hear and Obey, 30 minutes for Repent and Believe, and 15 minutes for Consider and Pray timeframe.
LTGs tend to fall into a couple ditches. First, one of the three different parts becomes the dominant portion of your conversation all the time. Most often, it happens in the “Repent and Believe” portion – people spend a lot of time talking about their sin and diagnosing all the circumstances, and it happens to the exclusion of the Word and Prayer.
The second ditch is that LTG becomes a mechanical conversation that militantly marches through these different stages without really being a personal conversation. Ensure that you cultivate flexibility, but maintain a sense of structure – remember LTGs are helping us be faithful as disciples, not a checkbox for discipleship.
In this six week period, I’d recommend rotating through different groups rather than trying to solidify people into a single group of two and three for two reasons:
- It reinforces the idea that you can be vulnerable with people in your struggles as a disciple of Jesus even if you don’t know them very well.
- It provides the opportunity for people to figure out who they will naturally want to spend time with, and will give a greater intrinsic motivation to launch an LTG that meets outside the regular group gathering time
Launch LTGs and Ask How They Are Going
Finally, after six weeks of practice inside the regular gathering time, encourage people to launch out. It is critically important as a leader that you don’t “program” the launch, but rather invite the participants to figure it out on their own! You want to create ownership of the LTG. Most LTGs fail simply because the participants never really wanted to be in one in the first place.
Have the group members ask someone to commit to an LTG with them, and have the group members figure out a time and a place to meet. Don’t do it for them!
Give the newly formed LTGs time to settle in and find a rhythm, then after a couple weeks ask your larger group how things are going in LTGs. Keep bringing it up over time to reinforce the vision and hold people accountable to participating!
What have you found to be helpful in cultivating smaller discipleship groups?