SAU LifeGroups

By Keriann Lane 18 Years Old // Ooltewah High School / / Collegedale Seventh-Day Adventist Church


CHRIST.

CONVERSATION.

COMMUNITY.

 

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, LIFEGROUPS HAVE TAKEN SOUTHERN ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY BY STORM. These groups of 3-12 meet once a week to strengthen their spirituality – and this year, there are over a hundred.

LifeGroups focus on a range of topics. These topics, selected by the student leaders of each group, are based on each groups’ individual needs. Because of this selection process, each LifeGroup is unique and personal. Topics can range from basic Christian principles and studying individual books of the Bible, to strengthening personal relationships with Christ. “The majority of LifeGroups deal with real world issues,”says LifeGroup Student Director Ben Curet. “In our groups, we identify issues and search for answers in Scripture.” People often use LifeGroup studies and communities to work through personal, family, or even educational issues.

Hebrews 1:24-25 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting  together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This is precisely what LifeGroups strive to do through curated talking points that foster and encourage spiritual relationships.

Although many people go into LifeGroups as friends, some don’t know anyone in the group and, at first, struggle to open up. “When the Holy Spirit is in our midst, and there has been time to establish trust within the group, people begin to feel comfortable and open up,” says Vanessa Hernandez, another LifeGroup Student Director.

Ultimately, LifeGroups push people to become transparent in their relationships with their group mates and with Christ and give students a platform to discuss their struggles as Christians with like-minded individuals. Through this time spent together, members become vulnerable and begin to lift each other up. “LifeGroups bring a call to authenticity,” Ben says. “Friends that pray together, stay together. I find that in life you don’t really know someone until you know them on a spiritual level. From there we can really grow as individuals and make a change for Christ.”

“Relationships with Jesus become real [in these groups],” Vanessa says. “And the relationships between members do too. After all, Jesus created us to live in community. When people come together and see how others are growing in Christ or come to know how someone is struggling with issues of the heart, a foundation is built that is difficult to shake.” 71.5


Full Interview:

Vanessa Hernandez, LifeGroup Student Director

71.5 What happens in Life Groups?

VH Lifegroups are small groups that happen once a week all over Southern’s campus. Every Lifegroup is different but the usual layout includes a time to mingle, eat, pray, study the bible or discuss the topic and then debrief. In Lifegroups people can come together and connect in an intimate way that is often lost within the crowd during usual vespers and church services. People can learn about a topic that interests them and grow closer together as a community. Relationships with Jesus become real as do the relationships with the people around them.

71.5 What topics are focused on during Life Group Meetings? Is there more of a focus on studying scripture or dealing with real life struggles?

VH As I mentioned above, the topics of each group are totally different. The leader decides what they want to focus their group on and people sign up for that group based on their own interest. We have typical groups that may study a book of the bible or focus on how to have an authentic relationship with Christ. Others may read books written by Ellen White or other famous authors (Beautiful Outlaw, Purpose Driven Life). We have had unique groups in the past that have centered their groups around unique topics. For example, some groups met out in public to share their faith, others participated in community service weekly as a group. Some groups met outside in different locations, others did different types of art that portrayed how Jesus had communicated with them that week. Others focus simply on having a time where people can come and talk to God as a devotional time. The opportunities are endless, people can come up with whatever they are passionate about, as long as they spend that thoughtful hour focusing on Jesus, whatever that looks like.

71.5 Within a Life Group, is it hard for some people to open up?

VH Just like any small group situation every group has members who are introverted or closed off and have a harder time opening up. Depending on the leader and type of group they may never open up. However, more often than not, when the Holy Spirit is within the midst and there has been time to establish trust within the members, people feel comfortable enough to open up. I cannot tell you how many times groups have started off on the surface but one Friday night rolls around and Jesus does things in people’s hearts and the flood gates to their hearts and deep struggles are opened.

71.5 Do people within a Life Group tend to stay friends and connect with each other outside of Life Group meetings? Do these friendships last after the semester?

VH Personally I can say that I have experienced lasting friendships come as a result of Lifegroups. My freshman year Lifegroup and every group since then has provided me with relationships that I will take with me long after college. Again this isn’t the case for every single Lifegroup on campus, but the chances to form friendships are much higher when people meet consistently on a weekly basis to share about their life and grow deeper with Jesus.

71.5 How do Life Groups tend to affect individuals’ outside of meetings? As students? In relationships? Spiritually?

VH I have seen Lifegroups change lives. When a person is committed to either a) lead a group that draws people to a deeper, more real place with Jesus or b) attending that group on a weekly basis and internalizing what they have learned, change is bound to happen. Because Lifegroups promote an authentic relationship with Jesus and authentic relationships with other students, a person who is willing to grow will grow in every area. I have been in contact with people who exude the Lifegroup mentality in every area of their life. They live life looking to build community, authentic relationships and an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Lifegroups have led to people’s baptism, and an opportunity to be a leader and do ministry that grows their faith.

71.5 What is the best part of Life Groups?

VH The intentionality of the system. By being intentional about every aspect from the way the volunteer leaders are mentored, to the way the mentors of the leaders are mentored. Every person is poured into which creates the trickle-down effect that reaches the Lifegroup participants. By intentionally pouring into a person, one can help that person grow to know Jesus more deeply as well as provide a support for them. Intentionality creates a passion for ministry, because one wouldn’t be intentional if they didn’t think it was worth their time. Intentionality provides a space for people to share their burdens and receive a blessing in return.

71.5 How does the community aspect of the group enhance the spiritual aspect?

VH Jesus created us to live in community. No person was ever meant to walk alone (take Adam for instance). The depth of the community that can be formed in Lifegroups offers an opportunity that many students do not have on campus. Many students aren’t able or don’t talk about Jesus with their friend groups on a daily basis, and Lifegroups provides a change of pace. When people come together and see how other people are growing in Christ or how they are struggling with issues of the heart, a foundation is built that is difficult to shake. Students have an assurance that they have a group of people who are praying for them and they can count on them to follow through.

71.5 How does the spiritual aspect enhance the community aspect?

VH I have learned over the years that a relationship can only be so deep without the presence of Jesus Christ. Because we were created to have an active, vibrant relationship with Christ and act out on his behalf, a life outside of that can only be so meaningful. The spiritual aspect that Lifegroup provides creates a depth in relationships that one cannot match with anything else. It is impossible to stay shallow when people allow Jesus to break into their lives and take them on a walk with them that will leave them much different than before. Lifegroups without spirituality are just social functions where people can come and go without any real conversation. Lifegroups is a spiritual community where Jesus can come and radicalize the hearts of those who are willing to let him do so.


Ben Curet, LifeGroup Student Director

71.5 What happens in Life Groups?

BC LifeGroups are student-led small groups.  They are an hour long or more.  Every LifeGroup is different, but the normal LifeGroup starts with a welcome and an icebreaker.  From there, groups will dive into their activity or the Word.  Some groups read a book or watch a sermon series, others focus on fellowship and getting into God’s nature.  Really, all LifeGroups are unique.

71.5 What topics are focused on during Life Group Meetings? Is there more of a focus on studying scripture or dealing with real life struggles?

BC The topics that are chosen are completely up to the leader and the co-leader.  We have all kinds of group from surface level Christian principles, to spirit of prophecy, to outreach groups.  There are over 100 LifeGroups this year, each with a different focus.  In general, I would say that the majority of LifeGroups deal with real world issues and search for an answer in scripture.

71.5 Within a Life Group, is it hard for some people to open up?

This can present an issue in some LifeGroups, as with any other small group.  But for the most part, no.  LifeGroups are safe places where people become friends.  A lot of LifeGroups start with a group of friends and only makes their friendships stronger.  A big push here on Southern’s campus is the call of authenticity.  That is a message that is brought out the best in the small group setting.  If you are going to open up, a LifeGroup is the place to do it.

71.5 Do people within a Life Group tend to stay friends and connect with each other outside of Life Group meetings? Do these friendships last after the semester?

BC I know that the reality of life is that there are some people who will fade away.  But for the most part I would have to say yes.  My best friends here at school are all from my LifeGroups that I have been a part of.  I still spend time with my friends from my LifeGroup during my freshman year.  I am a junior now.

71.5 How do Life Groups tend to affect individuals’ outside of meetings? As students? In relationships? Spiritually?

BC One of my favorite part of LifeGroups is what happens between the leader and their coach.  Every volunteer leader has a coach who works for Campus Ministries who journeys with them through life.  Just like I said in the last question, I am still friends today with my coaches from Freshman and Sophomore year here.  Coaches meet with the LifeGroup Leader at least once a week for about an hour and they grow together.  That can look like a bible study, a hike, playing a sport together, anything.  The point is to create a friendship and a relationship that goes beyond just LifeGroups.  There are many ups and downs in life and here in college.  My dream as a director is to see everyone have two constants in their life.  Somebody who will always be there and be willing to talk and support.  The first is God, and the second is the person’s coach.

71.5 What is the best part of Life Groups?

BC I would have to say they best part of LifeGroups is that everyone has a say.  Not everyone grows as much with corporate worship because it lacks the personal aspect.

71.5 How does the community aspect of the group enhance the spiritual aspect?

BC We are created to have community.  From the beginning of time, we see that God created woman for Adam because he said it is not good for man to be alone.  I find that I grow so much more when I am able to bounce ideas of others.

71.5 How does the spiritual aspect enhance the community aspect?

BC Friends that pray together, stay together.  I find that in life, you don’t really know someone until you know them on a spiritual level.  This is what I look for in my friendships and relationships in general.  Then from there we can really grow as individuals and make a change for Christ.

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