CONTENTS

Vision for LifeGroups

LifeGroup Commitment

Best Practices

A Typical Night

Process to Join a LifeGroup

A vision for essential community

As “A community following Jesus in Houston” we are seeking to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did in the world. The word community in our vision is not incidental. That’s because we hold a deep conviction that community is an essential implication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

LifeGroups are not the only way to experience community, but they are the primary means of living out this vision at Apostles. LifeGroups are integrated into our membership process however they are not required for membership in our community. Rather we want to regularly invite and encourage every member to experience to the transformational way of life Jesus has offer — and that requires real community.

That’s why our hope is that every member of our community would be part of a LifeGroup. Our hope is that every person at Apostles would have the chance to experience life together as as disciples, family and missionaries.

1. Disciple (individual & corporate practices)

LifeGroups are built around practices. Practices are spiritual disciplines, spiritual principles, and missional habits that are aimed at:

- being with Jesus.

- becoming like Jesus.

- doing what Jesus did. 

Individually, this looks like doing the practices on our own throughout the week.

Corporately, this looks like doing the practices together during our family night, encouraging one another in the practices, and helping one another grow. 

Questions:

What could get in the way of your Community growing in discipleship?

How do you create an environment in which people can grow to become like Jesus together?

 

2. Family (weekly meal & regular life)

LifeGroups aim to be family. This looks like a weekly meal and regular life together.

On the same night at the same time every week you will come together for a shared meal. 

For family night, everyone chips in: Someone hosts, people contribute to the meal, everyone shows up, and everyone cleans up.

Beyond family night, Communities hit their stride when they begin to pray for one another and share regular life together.

Questions:

What do you think is the difference between friends and family?

Have you ever been in an environment where church felt like family? What do you think made it feel like family?

 

3. Mission (monthly mission expression)

As disciples, when we begin to do the stuff Jesus did, we will naturally begin to do mission. - However, like all areas of following Jesus, this takes practice and intentionality.

For this reason, LifeGroups are invited to practice a monthly Mission Expression. 

These missional events can be whatever you choose them to be. The point is that you do something once a month in which you serve and love people who aren’t following Jesus.

Questions:

What are some justice-oriented missions that Community could have? (allow response)

Ex. Foster Parent’s Night Out, serving at a local school

What are some evangelism-oriented missions that a Community could have? (allow response)

    Ex. Having a dinner and inviting neighbors, monthly game night with friends who don’t follow Jesus. 

We commit to gathering around the Lord’s table every Sunday and around tables in homes during the week. We want to prioritize this commitment and miss only in the case of sickness or unforeseen circumstances.

 

COMMITTED TO LIFE TOGETHER

We cannot follow Jesus alone (be with him, become like him, and do what he did). To grow in our life with Jesus, we need one another. This will require effort and sacrifice. It will never be convenient. But over the long haul, it is worth it! As the saying goes, if nothing ever changes, then nothing will ever change. If we want the life of Jesus we need to be willing to change our lifestyle to be more in line with the way of Jesus we see in the Gospels. That’s why we ask LifeGroups to make these five commitments to:

1. Weekly meal together

Jesus was constantly eating meals with his followers and those far from God. Shared meals lead to shared lives, which is our goal as disciples, family, and missionaries of Christ.

2. Pray together

Jesus loved to pray for and with people. Praying together helps knit us together and draws us nearer to Christ. LifeGroups provide a real world “lab” in which we learn to pray and experience God’s presence and power in community.

3. Practice together

Jesus said blessed are those who not only hear my words but put them into practice (Luke 6:47). Three weeks a month you spend time discussing what we are learning as a church. The main goal is to work out how the truth of Jesus’ teachings shape not only our beliefs but our practices as a community in everyday life.  At any given time, the Apostles family will be working through a book of the Bible (an exegetical series) or learning a practice together (taking up a discipline of Jesus like forgiveness or fasting). Therefore:

  • All LifeGroups will be using the same content at the same time. This will increase our ability to focus and engage with what Jesus is teaching us as a community.

  • Regular leader trainings will equip leaders to facilitate discussions around the book or practice.

  • Additional resources and book recommendations will be provided for LifeGroups.

4. Share life

Meeting together one night a week is great… but we are aiming for more. LifeGroups are about sharing our lives through time through everyday relationship. The invitation, for you as a leader, is to have your eyes open. To see opportunities in which your parallel life can intersect with the lives of those in your LifeGroup.

5. Monthly mission

We want to see God’s kingdom come in Houston. Jesus invites and commands us to do this by telling others about him and his kingdom (in word and deed) and seeking justice in the world. That is why each LifeGroup adopts some sort of monthly event to promote a mission. This mission should be tangible, repeatable, ongoing, and done together. LifeGroups also encourage each other in their individual expression of life as missionaries in their daily lives. Specifically, LifeGroups are encouraged to participate in Alpha as group as a means of telling friends about Christ.

 

Best Practices

Here are some thoughts to help your group experience the richness of community in Christ and remain sustainable.

1. Share Responsibility

LifeGroups work best when the workload is shared…

  • LifeGroup Leaders give direction, oversight, care and promote discipleship. LifeGroup leaders receive coaching and training from David.

  • Mission Coordinators helps organize, schedule and facilitate the mission opportunity the LifeGroup identifies.

  • Communication Coordinator helps with administrative needs such as scheduling and keeping everyone in the loop.

  • Hospitality Coordinator is your meal and host master. They may love to cook, but more importantly they love to plan meals and make sure it all comes together each week.

   LifeGroup is not “what’s in it for me,” it’s about “what I can bring to the table.” 

 

2. Show up…every week…on time

    You are meeting at the same time every week. Put it in your calendar. 

    Do things come up? Absolutely.  But we don't want to miss because we’re tired, or better plans come up, or our baby had a hard day. We miss because something at work came up unexpectedly, or we’re on vacation, or our baby has a fever.

    When you have to miss, let your LifeGroup know in advance via phone call, not a text. 

    We have to be able to count on one another
 

3. Offer Grace

To yourselves

        Allow yourselves to make mistakes and hit bumps in the road. Just make sure you keep moving forward. 

To others

        With relationship comes disappointment. Don’t hold one another to such high standards that you are bound to be disappointed. You’re flawed and so is everyone else. 
 

4. Be Patient

    All of this takes time. The secret ingredient for healthy LifeGroups is faithfulness over time.

 

A Typical Night

You can adjust these times as needed. This is meant to provide you with an expectation of how much time you will need (usually 2 hours) and how to use the time.
 

6:15-6:30: Arrive

    If we’re going to make the most of the night, we have to show up on time. 

 

6:30-7:10 Gathering begins. Serve food. Eat. Mingle. 

    Hang out. But remember, if we’re going to eat, food has to be ready at 630. 

    While you eat together, catch up and learn what’s going on in each other’s lives.

    Consider a guided conversation:

    Highs & Lows of the week or What is something Jesus is teaching you right now?

 

7:10-8:10: Weekly Practice

Scripture and discussion questions that connect the sermon with a current practice. Our desire is to understand and put into practice what we are learning. 
 

8:10-8:30: Prayer

Either as a whole group, or in smaller groups of guys and girls, spend some time praying together and for one another.

If the host is ok with it, people can hang out longer, but people need to be able to count on the night wrapping up at a consistent time. 

 

Process for joining a LifeGroup

We want to invite people to move beyond "attending a church" to committing to a mission and way of life together. Therefor, LifeGroups are integrated into the process of joining our community. There are two ways someone joins a LifeGroup:  

  • Apostles Basics: People who are new to our community are invited to attend a Discover Dinner (held several times a semester) to learn about our vision, story and the next step: Apostles Basics. Apostles Basics held three times a year. It is a three part membership course which includes one Sunday teaching and two weeknight gatherings. Those who complete Apostles Basics are invited to join existing LifeGroup in their area or help start a new LifeGroup in their area. If staring a new LifeGroup, they are invited to attend a LifeGroup leader training and monthly leader meetings.

  • Personal invitation: LifeGroup members are encouraged to see LifeGroup as a place to invite friends and neighbors into community around Christ.

  • Note: Because we want folks to enter a LifeGroup with a clear understanding of their purpose and the commitment, we do not promote them as a point of entry for visitors and newcomers. Instead, we encourage people to attend Apostles Basics which gives them a chance to experience a LifeGroup and then asks them to make a commitment LifeGroup. That said, LifeGroups are open to anyone via personal invitation.