Sandbox Life Groups
Reaching the Lost • Empowering the Found • Building Life Together
Life Groups exist to teach and equip as well as create a culture of constant fellowship, vulnerability, accountability, and encouragement. The model for our life groups is derived from what the early biblical church looked like in Acts 2:42-47:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In Acts we see a community that was thriving and growing in a way that was only possible because of God’s hand moving. Although God was the reason for their growth they did have a model that allowed for this growth to happen.
Before we go any further I want to we break down the definition of the words devotion, fellowship, awe, and signs so we can begin to see that there is real depth to these “Christian” words we almost flippantly use. I define these first because these are key words that will bring a new meaning to this verse as well.
Devotion means to give all or a large part of one's resources or time to something. To be a people who see thousands of people come to Jesus we need to realize it starts with a devotion to the teachings of our preachers/teachers, eating together, and praying.
Fellowship has a deeper meaning than just sitting around getting coffee. It really has a meaning that should cause us to revaluate how we interact in with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Fellowship can mean: community, communion, joint participation, intercourse (exchange especially of thoughts or feelings) and intimacy (close familiarity or friendship; closeness). As we can see this is more than just saying hello to your friends on a Sunday or at a bible study. It is a dedication to know those you are around and having them know you. Openness and vulnerability is the key here and we will dive more into this later on.
It is interesting that it says awe because awe does not mean what you are probably thinking. Awe means: fear, terror, and dread. Because of what God was doing and because of how real his presence was they had fear and reverence for God. The community we want to steward is one of honor and respect for God in such a real way as if you could see him in the room with you. This means beginning to reevaluate living a holy life so that you can be set apart for every good work God has in store for you. Many church cultures get the Holy Spirit high but continue to proactively live in sin and forget that Holy is part of his name. If we want to see people saved on this scale we need this reverence for his presence and honor it with our lives.
The next word I want to bring to life for you is signs. This word means unusual occurrences transcending (extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience; being beyond comprehension) the common course. The early church was constantly in awe of things happening that defied explanation. The Holy Spirit was providing for and working in and through them in amazing ways. We want to constantly be sharing how God is moving through and in us so that we can be an encouragement to those around us. Be comforted by what God is doing in another because he can do it for you.
…for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24.)
We want to be under the teaching of those that are gifted in teaching. In our life groups we want to teach and equip each one of you to be able to minister (attend to the needs of) to others taking care of peoples physical and spiritual needs. This is what the early church did and why it was able to handle having thousands of people added to their numbers.
Through vulnerability we will be able to share what God needs to do in our lives, what he is doing and what he has done. Each one of these plays a huge role in the development of this community. We will see people set free to be used by God in amazing ways. When we share what we are going through it allows people the freedom to share their struggles. When we share what God has brought us through and set us free from it gives hope. One of the most powerful things we can ever do is be open and vulnerable about our lives, sharing all that Jesus has done for us.
Through being vulnerable and a willingness to deal with our sin we can begin to move into who God has called us to be. We are called to be open and vulnerable with what we are struggling with in life. It is not only for our benefit but for the benefit of others. Ministry is a two way road. Those doing the ministering also receive when they experience the Holy Spirit moving through them so it is very important that we are willing to allow others to be there for us. The bible also says healing comes from confessing our sins to each other.
Discipleship allows for us to be open and vulnerable with each other creating a space for life change to happen. When we help someone grow more into the image of Christ we have done our job as leaders well. The key to discipleship is to constantly be pushing towards Christ likeness and helping someone along that same path.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. -James 5:16
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –John 1:5-9
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” –Ephesians 5:11-14
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." –Galatians 6:2
"Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out," -Acts 3:19
"You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others." -2 Timothy 2:2
Our goal is not to shame one another into repentance but to encourage one another by speaking life and who Jesus says we are. Another way we can do this is by using the spiritual giftings that God has freely offered to us through the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Once such gift is the gift of prophecy or words of knowledge.
"But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you."-1 Corinthians 14:24-25
The Holy Spirit can and will speak to us about what other people are going through. We have to trust God that he wants to use us and then he will. Our goal is that we would all be equipped to be able to discern when the Holy Spirit is showing us something about another person. You will be taught how to appropriately approach someone to pray for them. There are parameters on who you can approach with a word and what you can approach someone about. This gift is not for you to feel good about yourself though and I cannot stress that enough. We will always use the gifts that God has given to us out of love and compassion for others. If you are using them for any other reason then it is not for God it is for your own pride. Our goal in all of this is for God to break through to your heart and not for you to do these things on your own strength.
We want to have a life group model that can be easily replicated and we want this model to reflect everything we see in the early Acts church. The key here is to be able to effectively replicate the same model for when growth happens. We will do that by having a set of leaders and leaders in training for when the life group gets to big and needs to split up into two. This way you have a set of leaders who have been in discipleship with the current leaders being taught how to effectively run the groups and deal with situations as they arise. They will have also had experience leading the group themselves. We call the splitting of a life group into two life groups multiplication.
Another key aspect of life groups is to make sure we have space for the Holy Spirit to move much like we do on our Sundays. This will be possible because the life group will have multiple phases instead of having just one time of hearing someone teach and then having surface level conversations. The five phases of a life group will be; Fellowship, casting vision, worship, teaching, and Box Buddy Groups (openness through small groups of 3-4 people and prayer).
Meet and Greet 7:00-7:15
At the beginning of each life group there will be a time set aside before we start for people to eat snacks and talk. This is a time to meet anyone new or that you don’t know. Since we will be having people who have never come to church coming to life groups it is so key that we create an open and welcoming culture. We should make it a point to talk to someone we don’t know during this time and not just talk with our friends.
Get-to-know you question / Game / Announcements 7:15 - 7:25pm
This is a time to have some fun and play a quick icebreaker game. Some people when they come to a church event for the first time are very nervous and this time is designed to help them realize church can be fun. After the icebreaker any announcements for the week will be shared with the group such as church wide events or life group specific events.
Vision Casting 7:25-7:30
After fellowship we will start with casting vision for why we are gathering together with the reading of Acts 2:42-47. This will also be a time to share testimonies so that everyone can know about the signs and wonders being done through our church body.
We will then worship with 3-5 songs using a member of the church who can lead worship or just playing worship music. During this time we encourage you to focus on Jesus but also be open to the Holy Spirit prompting you to pray for someone else. This is a great time to have everybody participate as we see in the early chapters of Acts, 1 Corinthians 12-14, etc.;l to worship together wholeheartedly, seek the Lord together, pray with one another, to step out in faith and operate in our spiritual giftings, such as giving a word of knowledge to someone. The Life Group leaders will be trained to specifically be able to give words of encouragement and knowledge to people new to the group.
After worship we will move into our discussion segment. We will then be diving into God’s word and his vision for the church through group discussion led by prompts from the life group leaders. This is not intended to be simply a bible study night, or even a time for more teaching. This is an opportunity to come together as a smaller church body and to have everybody participate and discuss the application of the vision that was cast on Sunday morning's meeting. People are encouraged to share. The life group leaders will be trained to shepherd conversations in the right direction.
Box Buddy Groups 8:30-9:00
After the teaching we will break into groups of 2-4 where we can go deeper with one another, hold each other accountable, deal with sin in each other’s lives, and encourage/exhort one anther. These will be the people you meet up with outside of life group, encourage, and pray for regularly. This is the most important part of life group and where we will see the most fruit. Discipleship will also begin to form out of these groups as well. These groups will always have one spiritually mature leader who is able to facilitate this deep level of vulnerability so that others feel comfortable sharing what they are going through
The most important thing about life groups is that we are here for Jesus. We exist to make his name know and to see other people come into a closer walk with him. Life groups are the entry point into Sandbox and will be a safe place to invite people to. Our hope for each of you is that your life group would be a place where you experience Jesus’ love and spiritual growth on a whole new level. We want to break our old habits and form into a family that openly welcomes others to join in with us on this journey of pursuing Jesus. This will happen as we collectively realize what we are worth to Jesus so that we can see how valuable other people are.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” -Romans 15:5-7