A Great Idea From Terry Linhart

December 14, 2011

A friend from Bethel College wrote an interesting idea blog on family groups. It's a cool take on small groups. Read on. Thanks Terry.

Developing a family group: 5 commitments

Categories: Odds & Ends

Last week I wrote a post regarding the unique family group to which Kelly and I (and our kids) belong.  The group has been going for 12 years now, though we’ve been a part of it for 10. Five families gather every-other-Friday night for a time of sharing, Bible study, prayer, lots of laughter, and even regular tears (of both joy and sadness).  Our three teenage kids feel like they’re cousins to the others in the family group and they’ve grown up together. We’ve endured the up’s and down’s of job loss, job success, sickness, healing, work turmoil, work promotion, divorce, marital enrichment, adoption, and kids leaving for college.

We don’t have the magic formula, though obviously something is going right.  I jotted down five commitments that I think a group would have to make to be able to meet regularly for over a decade.


1.  Have clear leadership with consensus decision-making. One couple has to be in charge and they set the pace. Yet every decision needs to be consensus.  We have one couple who hosts and leads, but never in a heavy-handed way.  One of the ‘fun’ things we’ve done is allow different people to have a particular night and ‘surprise’ us.

2.  Commit to endure the emotional give and take that accompanies become brothers and sisters. As our group grew closer and closer, and we grew to know each other better, feelings became hurt more easily and little things mattered more and more. When we stepped back to realize that we were becoming close like brothers/sisters, suddenly we saw those tensions as good things versus as rising conflict.  Our response was to become MORE unguarded, to risk complete openness, and now we are truly a “family of families” and no topic is off limits in our midst.

3.  Figure out what you do outside of the group.  The five families don’t attend the same church now and we don’t usually do much together in between meetings (though we call and text each other regularly).  But, the girls used to meet on the off weeks for prayer and share time (and sometimes still do) while the men got together on occasion.  We make sure that the adults go out to 2 or 3 really nice evenings out each year and all five families go camping for a weekend every summer.   The key here is that nothing is forced and it has evolved.

4.  Commit to key components and avoid the social drift. Too many Christian groups these days see their goal as “connecting” while not focusing on the content of the meeting. We make sure that we study a Bible-centered curriculum (we’ve run the gambit on this from intense book studies, DVD series, spiritual disciplines, trade books), we pray together, and we share.  And we eat good food afterwards!  [I'll talk more in a later post about the role of children/teens in our family group.]  It’s too easy to not work at having content, but that work is worth it. This year has proven that. These are some of our best family group times ever.

5.  Have a clear mission for the group. For the first seven years, we regularly evaluated the purpose of the group. We always asked whether we should keep meeting (just to be sure) and whether we should grow beyond the five families.  We’ve done a few small service projects for those in need and we’ve secretly funded some ministry/service in others’ lives (but you can’t say anything because it’s a secret).   We’ve avoided the temptation to think we’re a church (and I’ll probably weigh in on ‘house churches’ in another post) and we’ve battled against the temptations (i.e. laziness, familiarity, aging kids with busy schedules) that can thwart an effective family group.

We don’t have to evaluate as ruthlessly now because the role/mission is clear.

Everyone knows…. we’re ‘family.’

No matter what happens, no matter what struggles/battles are ahead.http://www.terrylinhart.com/developing-a-family-group-5-commitments/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TerryLinhart+%28Terry+Linhart%29

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