When a Friend Divorces

How to provide support through the emotional and spiritual fallout

by Judy Corey

When my friend Amy announced she was getting a divorce, I was shocked. She was a dedicated, patient Christian married to an unbeliever, and though I knew there were problems, I naively thought patience, faith, and love would conquer everything. When she told me Stan had left, I didn’t know what to say. If he had died, I would have gone to the funeral, brought food and flowers, and kept her company during the grieving process. Divorce seemed more awkward. I offered my sympathy and encouragement, but kept a “hands off” approach as Amy began sorting out her new single life.

Five years later, when my own marriage dissolved in divorce, I learned the hard way how painful it is when Christian friends don’t know how to comfort. Like Amy, I’d masked the chaos in my life and the life of my children behind a calm facade; my Christian friends had no idea of the seriously troubled dynamics of my marriage to an alcoholic. When they learned of the pending divorce I hadn’t initiated, a few awkwardly offered words of comfort. Many, however, just avoided me or chirped a cheery, “How are you,” then zipped into the sanctuary without waiting for an answer. I often suffered alone; my friends didn’t have words to help me.

Amy and I both changed churches following our divorces, but it took Amy nearly ten years to find a new, more loving congregation. Another friend abandoned church nearly 20 years ago after her devastating experience with a congregation that failed to model Christ’s love, and she’s never returned. Yet it really isn’t hard to be a friend to someone who is divorced; all it takes is common sense and compassion. Here are some ways to be a better friend to your friends who are divorced:

Don’t Be Afraid to Share the Pain and Anger

There’s always pain in divorce, both for the parting spouses and for any children from the marriage. Yet your friend may be afraid to trust you with her pain. When my feelings were raw from rejection, I covered up my fear and inadequacy with busyness. Inwardly, however, I desperately needed emotional support, love, and affirmation. When my Christian friends avoided me, not knowing how to help, I felt even more rejected and unloved.

Through a writers’ group, God led me to two very special Christian sisters from another church, Nancy and Carma. They listened to my pain and anger as I sorted things out, and refrained from mouthing platitudes such as “Just trust God and everything will be fine.” They befriended me, prayed for me, and cheered me on as I went through the grieving process.

Those who had suffered great loss themselves were the biggest help. For example, Amy could comfort me in a way I’d not been able to comfort her, because she understood my situation far better than my still-married friends. Her encouragement, private prayers, and shared experience helped me have hope for the future. When I doubted my own ability to survive the divorce, Amy’s quiet determination to live a happy and godly life as a single woman gave me courage.

Help Meet Real Physical Needs

Divorce disrupts not only the emotional and spiritual life of a family, but the financial side, too. Listen to what your friend may notbe saying. Melissa was divorced and coping with four children. She needed to work, but her car broke down and she lived in a rural county with no public transportation system. Although she didn’t ask for help finding a car, her friends recognized her need and helped her connect with a Christian organization that specializes in finding used cars for people in adverse circumstances. Before long, Melissa was driving a van big enough to hold all the children, and she was able to start working again.

One of Melissa’s boys was having difficulty adjusting to his new circumstances. A church friend volunteered to become a “big brother,” a male role model who could share his time and interests on occasional weekends. Children of divorce need special attention and acceptance. Mentoring these children may completely change their outlook and help them feel God’s love—despite all that’s happened.

Maybe your friend has a simple, practical need you can meet. For example, I hung my clothes in the basement one terrible winter because I couldn’t afford to hire a repairman to look at my ailing dryer. As it turned out, when I finally overcame my embarrassment and talked to a church member about it, he told me to check the dryer fuse, something I didn’t realize existed. Sure enough, that solved the problem! If you can offer minor handyman repairs or occasional childcare, let your friend know you’re willing to do this.

Encourage Your Friend Toward a Deeper Faith in God 

Christ calls us to heal and to comfort, and our friends who are divorced certainly need that healing. Those who are divorced often feel like failures, and are hurting, angry, lonely people. Whether or not we agree with all their decisions, they need a big dose of unconditional love and hope, rather than condemnation. Friends can encourage divorced people to pay attention to what God is telling them through this experience. You can be the bearer of the good news that God can bring rebirth and joy despite the pain of divorce.

Nancy and Carma lived out the Scriptures, “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and “Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). During my darkest days, I “borrowed” Nancy and Carma’s faith when I was too weak to sort out the tangled threads on my own. Nancy encouraged me to spend an hour each morning in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. At first I resisted; however, when I finally followed her example, I experienced God’s measureless strength and peace.

At Nancy’s suggestion, I started journaling about my losses. And studying Bible stories of people like Tamar and Daniel, who had suffered unjustly, also helped put my losses in perspective.

One of the tasks I had to struggle with was facing the fact that the God of my childhood, the father figure who would work miracles to rescue me, was a false image. What Christ called me to do was to follow him in grown-up ways, taking responsibility for my own actions while at the same time admitting my limitations. I had to “grow up” in the Lord—to sort through the painful truths about my shattered marriage. Blaming all the problems on my spouse wasn’t allowed. God, and my friends, gently demanded honesty and fairness from me.

So, lovingly and gently challenge your friend to grow through this experience. Suggest that your church offer a “Coping with Divorce” class, and invite divorced friends to attend. Model mature faith, and encourage your friend to seek out a solid biblical image of God. If your friend is unchurched, suggest that she find a body of believers who emphasize love and partnership.

Gently Nourish Your Friend’s Creative Side 

When so many dreams have died, our God-given spark of creativity often seems buried, too. Time pressures can make creative work seem like a luxury we can ill afford. Yet when we most need a reason to feel alive again, to have new purpose, discovering new artistic or creative abilities can be life-giving. God may call us, especially in midlife, to develop gifts we’ve neglected or ignored. Perhaps you can help by offering to babysit once in a while so your friend can explore new hobbies, interests, or talents. Or you might invite your friend to ride with you to a class or meeting, saving money for gas.

Nancy and Carma encouraged me, shy as I was, to begin speaking out of my experience. A gifted public speaker, Nancy soon had me assisting with workshops, calling forth a gift I could not have guessed I possessed. This gave me great confidence and opened new doors in both the sacred and secular world.

You, too, may be able to help your divorced friends see possibilities they might never have envisioned. God is full of surprises!

Include Your Friend in Both Worship and Play

“Keep close to God’s Word, get plenty of sleep, take time to exercise, eat healthy food, and eliminate some of the stress in your life,” my friend Jim advised me. Then he added, to my surprise, “Relax and learn to have fun!” Jim instructed me to create opportunities for fun and relaxation at least once or twice a week in order to balance the grief work that was part of my healing process.

My teenage daughter, Jen, encouraged me to buy a bathing suit, despite my generous figure, and start swimming again. I forced myself to start inviting other single Christian women over to my apartment to watch a video or share supper, or to go out to a party or a church event. Friends invited me to take up cross-country skiing, line dancing, and camping, and every week I learned to schedule some “fun” times.

These activities complemented my regular church attendance, and with my new confidence, I accepted an invitation to co-lead a Christian singles group. Friends invited me to spend an occasional refreshing weekend at a Christian retreat center, and eventually to take classes at seminary. All these activities helped restore my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Say Something to Let Your Friend Know You Care 

You may believe that you have no words to offer a divorced friend. However, even a simple “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?” is better than silence, which can be interpreted as rejection. Good friends give hope, strength, and love in a time when these are desperately needed. Friends encourage divorced people to find the freedom of forgiveness and the ability to dream again.

In this freedom, I’m rebuilding my life. Because of the encouragement and faith of good Christian friends, I grew greatly in my faith and learned how to love again. Now, eight years later, I know God can bring transformation and healing out of the ashes of divorce. You can be the bearer of the good news that God can bring rebirth and joy despite the pain of divorce!

Not long ago, I was driving my car on a particularly foggy morning. Most of the time, I could see the sun like a distant star shining feebly through the haze, but occasionally I drove through low places where the fog completely blocked out the sun. Surrounded by mist, unable to see the next bend in the road, I felt terrified and alone. When finally the fog lifted so I could again see the sun peeking through, I was overjoyed! It was there all along; all I needed to do was trust and keep driving.

As a friend to someone who is divorced, you can encourage them to “keep driving” until the road becomes clear again. You can model light and hope until your friend again can see the sunshine of God’s love and grace.

—Judy Corey is the owner of her own consulting company, Word and Spirit, in White Cloud, Michigan

From smallgroups.com, copyright 2007; Christianity Today Intl.

Divorce Needs

A look at the emotional, practical, and spiritual needs of people going through divorce

by Connie M. Valentini

Fifty percent of marriages today will end in divorce. Because these numbers are consistent for both Christians and non-Christians, the church must learn to respond lovingly to this group of hurting people. Divorce is profoundly painful, and a better understanding of the difficulties and needs of a divorced person will provide us with the sensitivity and wisdom required to be effective ministers of God’s grace and mercy. Here are a few of the main needs a person faces during a divorce:

Need for Understanding

Numerous problems can contribute to a couple’s divorce: patterns of conflict, addiction, abuse, the trauma of an affair, stressful events that impact the marriage, neglect and/or emotional distance within the marriage. The reasons for a divorce are important as you seek to minister to a hurting divorced person. 

Spouses often experience long-standing private difficulties in their marriage long before the public event of a divorce. It is important to take the time to listen and understand the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage. Only when you listen can you offer the kind of emotional and spiritual support that your friend needs. 

In some cases, he or she might be verbalizing his or her experiences for the first time, and coming to terms with many new or unfamiliar feelings. For example, a spouse who has suffered many years of physical and emotional abuse may be overwhelmed by the feelings of anger that she suppressed during the marriage. In this case, listening to the anger can be a vital step in helping this person in the recovery process.

What you can do:

  • Ask your friend going through a divorce to tell you what he or she has been learning through this experience.

  • Don’t give advice while you are seeking to understand your friend’s difficult choices. Try not to display shock or judgment if your friend conveys painful details from his ordeal.

  • Convey a commitment to confidentiality so that your friend feels safe to share honestly about her experience.

Need for Grieving

People suffer many losses when they get divorced: the loss of a best friend and companion, financial security, a home, shared friends, daily time with children, and—perhaps most importantly—a particular vision of the future. These losses all lead to a deep sense of grief, not unlike the grief that people experience following a death. There is no way to fill the emptiness that divorce creates, but being present in the midst of your friend’s sadness can be a source of comfort and strength.

While a period of grief and sadness is expected, unremitting sadness and symptoms of depression can be serious. Symptoms of depression include sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating and completing daily activities, loss of appetite or weight, and thoughts of death or suicide. If you notice these symptoms, it is best to give a referral to a professional psychologist or psychiatrist.  

What you can do:

  • When you spend time with your friend who is getting a divorce, make mental notes of his or her physical, mental, and emotional health.

  • Encourage your friend to journal his or her feelings of grief, which can be a good way to understand and move through the difficult emotions.

Need for Acceptance

Divorce often results in feelings of guilt, rejection, and shame. Nearly all people, Christians in particular, will struggle intensely with the decision to divorce because of the cultural and spiritual stigma of failure attached to it. Be sure to show your friend non-judgmental acceptance, which will provide a healing message that he or she is still deeply loved and valued. This love and acceptance from others—especially those within the church—can be a deeply reassuring comfort, and a step toward experiencing God’s forgiveness.

What you can do:

  • Offer to pray with your friend, particularly if you sense that shame and guilt are an encumbrance for her.

  • Have some Scripture at hand to read with your friend to remind him of God’s forgiveness and grace.

Need for Relationship

Many divorced people experience a deep sense of alienation from others. This is particularly true for Christians. They might perceive that their divorce is such a stain of failure that others simply can’t relate or no longer wish to associate with them. By reaching out to a hurting divorced person, you can help him or her feel connected and loved. 

Be sensitive, though, to the potential discomfort a recently divorced person may feel in spending time with other married couples. Sometimes this can highlight the state of his or her recently severed relationship and prompt feelings of sadness or loneliness. With this in mind, an offer of time from a same-sex friend can be especially effective.

What you can do:

  • Invite your friend to do something that does not involve serious conversation, such as browsing through a bookstore or seeing a movie.

  • Consider asking your friend to help you in some way, such as a project around the house or a ministry at church. Being offered an opportunity to care about others can help him or her feel worthwhile and important. 

Need for Tangible Support

We have certain cultural traditions that we practice after a person dies: a time of visitation, a funeral, bringing food to the grieving family, and phone calls to keep in touch. But there are no recognizable rituals to acknowledge the event of divorce, nor are there prescribed responses to minister to those who have undergone a divorce. Yet divorce can include a significant time of stressful transition, disorganization, and deep grief that can be alleviated through the loving support of others.

What you can do:

  • Call your friend regularly while he is going through his divorce. Give him a chance to talk about the details of the events transpiring and offer your support.

  • Bring over meals and offer to babysit if your friend has children.

  • Offer to help with reorganizing or packing if your friend needs to move.

Need for God’s Forgiveness

Christians who divorce are often quite troubled with their need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Most Christians clearly understand that God despises divorce (Malachi 2:16), but they are often so broken and fragile that they feel too unworthy to embrace the grace that God offers all sinners. 

This is where the church can communicate God’s redemptive love and his capacity to restore us to wholeness. Spending time together in prayer and speaking God’s truth can be a healing balm over the wounds of failure and loss.

What you can do:

  • Each time you visit your friend, express your confidence in God’s forgiving character and ask for a specific request you can pray for.

  • Consider whether your friend would benefit from a formal time of healing prayer with a pastor or prayer minister. Experiencing compassion and forgiveness from a church leader can be a powerful representation and encounter with God’s love.

Need for Hope

Divorce causes grief over the loss of a particular future and a fear about what the future will now hold. Your divorced friend needs a renewed sense of hope for her future, with trust that God will provide for her needs. You can communicate through prayer and conversation that God has not abandoned her because of divorce, but that he still desires to bless her life. 

What you can do:

  • Encourage your friend to join a church-based, divorce recovery group as a way to grow and learn with others who have gone through similar difficult experiences.

  • When you see your friend acting hopeless, remind her of her many strengths, and the fact God will remain faithful to her.

—Dr. Connie M. Valentini is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in the Chicago suburbs.

From smallgroups.com, copyright 2007 Christianity Today Intl.

When Divorce Visits Your Small Group

What to do in the likely event of a marital crisis

by Lee A. Dean

Whether your small group is open or closed, or whether or not you always leave an empty chair, there’s one uninvited guest hovering around the meeting place ready to barge into the proceedings. The longer your group lasts, the more likely this intruder is to make an appearance. The name of this party crasher is divorce.

The chances are good that either a couple or an individual in your small group will have to wrestle directly with this crisis, which means the entire group will deal with it as well. What should a small-group leader do to prepare for the impact of divorce on individuals, couples, and the group?

Be Prepared

The statistics about divorce are by now all too familiar. Half of all first marriages end in divorce, while 60 percent of remarriages eventually fall apart. The divorce rates among evangelical Christians are little better than the rates of the population as a whole. Now plug these statistics into the life of a church small group. Logic tells you that small groups would not be immune to the problem, and logic would be correct.

This is especially true if the group stays together for a longer period of time. Dennis Anderson—pastor of adult ministries at Crossroads Covenant Church in Loveland, Colorado—estimates that if a group has been meeting for three or more years, the chances are better than 50-50 that someone in the group will deal with divorce. In addition, almost every group has members who are affected by the divorce of a family member or a friend.

Be Alert

A small group leader must be alert to warning signs that a marriage is in trouble. The leader must also know how to deal with divorce after the fact. The bottom line is that small-group leaders should always be on the lookout for signs of marital breakup and ways to minister to people affected by divorce. But on the lookout for exactly what?

Verbal clues. Watch for how a husband and wife talk to each other, both in the group and in non-group social settings. Be alert for someone criticizing his or her spouse in front of another group member. Behavior at social events can be a telltale sign of impending trouble, because some people are less inhibited at social events than at group meetings.

Physical clues. Leaders should watch for how couples touch each other, their posture, and how closely they sit next to each other. “Is there warmth?” asks Rex Minor, pastor of adult discipleship at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California. “If you’re in a group with people for six weeks, you can just tell if there’s marital warmth or marital distance.”

Behavioral clues. Watch for changes in behavior. If a person is usually talkative and begins to brood or is unusually quiet, it may be time to ask whether there’s a problem. Watch for flashes of anger from a normally calm and quiet person. The surest sign of trouble is when one or both of the couple stops attending the meetings.

Hidden clues. Another sign of trouble is more hidden: when an individual does not open up or become vulnerable enough to share their struggles. Your course is to continue to be observant and gently challenge people when their words don’t match up with their attitudes, postures, and behaviors. “We’re not called to be mind readers, but we are called to love each other and ask questions,” says Minor.

Be Proactive

Because timing is so important when dealing with sensitive issues, leaders should keep the following in mind:

Too soon is better than too late. When a small-group leader suspects someone is struggling with a potential divorce, when is the best time to get involved? As soon as possible, say both Anderson and Minor. Some leaders may feel reluctant to intervene, especially early in the life of the group, if the leader is inexperienced, or if there is a fear of jumping to conclusions. In practice, however, most leaders move too slowly.

Say it in private. The first step is to have a private conversation with the person or the couple. Share the things you have noticed and ask, “Are you okay? If not, there are ways we can help.” You will not always get the person to open up about their problems on the first try, but you will at least serve notice that you’re watching and that you care.

“More often than not, people want to get help, but they don’t know how to ask for it. They may be ashamed to,” said Minor.

“They may say that everything’s fine. Then you can say ‘I’m confused by these two or three signals I’m getting,’” Anderson explained.

If possible in these private conversations, men should talk to men and women to women. This approach is especially appropriate when talking to a couple in crisis. If this approach isn’t possible, a leader could still contact a member of the opposite sex, but only with the foreknowledge of the other partner.

Ask for help. Small-group leaders need not feel like the Lone Ranger when addressing divorce. Leaders should get pastors, staff members, and other appropriate church leaders involved, but not immediately. Some pastors may want to step in too quickly and do the work of the group leader. The better alternative is for the pastor to become aware of the problem and then offer insight to the leader on how to proceed. Then the pastor steps back and lets the leader tackle the problem. If the small-group leader keeps coming back for help, the pastor may want to take a more active role. Even in this instance, Minor is less likely to step in and more apt to use the experience as a teaching tool for his group leaders.

Confronting sin. If the divorce has taken place or is in process, the group leader needs to evaluate and confront the situation from a posture of grace. Each party shares some degree of responsibility for the end of the marriage. But when should a leader confront a person whose sinful behavior is largely responsible for the divorce?

The leader should alert the person to the harmful effects of their behavior, both to the individual and to the group. Set a boundary: if the person persists in the behavior, the fellowship of the group will be withdrawn. The leader should continue to pursue the erring person as a lost sheep by maintaining contact and expressing concern.

Be Unified

Perhaps the most powerful assets available to a leader in ministering to someone suffering through divorce are the other members of the group.

Talk as a group. If the person or couple needing help isn’t at the meeting, this provides a great opportunity for group members to talk about how they can provide ministry to the hurting person. “The leader should avoid the common mistakes of overkill and undercare,” Anderson explains. Leaders should consider who in the group has the best relationship with the person and let them take on the primary ministry roles, with the other group members playing supporting roles.

Serve as role models. Small groups can be a great place to be for people having marital difficulties or who are already divorced. Group members who have successfully saved threatened marriages, or who have navigated the rocky waters of divorce with success, can provide wise counsel to people in crisis. This kind of advice and encouragement is crucial.

Have a plan for when the wounded person wants to share. Sometimes a person wounded by divorce will want to share his or her feelings and needs with the group. How much time should the leader give this person? The best leaders do not plow ahead with the planned activities if someone is crying out for help. Be prepared to give over the proceedings of at least one entire meeting to the needs of the suffering person. Let them vent and get their feelings on the table.

From that point on, leaders can be flexible. Some leaders may want to avoid having subsequent meetings dominated by the person’s needs while at the same time making sure that the person receives care outside the meeting. Other leaders may want to devote as much group time as necessary to help steer the group member past the worst part of the crisis.

“You really can’t put a time limit on something like this,” said Minor. “I’ve seen some groups take three months. That feels too long, but at the same time, to limit it to one night doesn’t seem reasonable.”

Encourage ministry between meetings. One of the most effective times for other group members to minister is outside the official group meeting times. Encourage your group members to pray for the person, make encouraging telephone calls, and invite them into their homes for meals. If there is a workshop or support group meeting coming up, encourage the person to attend and offer to go with them.

— Lee A. Dean is a freelance writer and editor based in Plainwell, Michigan.

From smallgroups.com Copyright 2007 Christianity Today Intl.

7 Days of Praying for Your Family

Have You Been Concerned About Your Family Lately?

So often, we remember to pray for other people, but we forget to pray for ourselves and for those closest to us. We simply forget the power of prayer and that God longs for us to be in prayer with him! He especially desires for each of us to be in prayer about our family, the people closest to us on this side of heaven. To help you pray for yourself and for your family, here is a short, bullet-point, seven-day prayer guide that covers nearly every aspect of life.

Courtesy of iBelieve.com

Answering Tough Questions

Smallgroups.com provides this series of helpful articles for your use in preparing for challenging discussions about the tough questions of life. In this publication you will find the following articles:

  • Listen before you answer
  • A new kind of answer
  • Why is life so unfair?
  • Why does God allow abuse?
  • Is God to blame for natural disasters?
  • Why doesn't God always heal those who pray?
  • Where is God in suffering?
  • Will that person be in heaven?
  • Suffering can be good.

Could your next curriculum be a book study?

Some pros and cons to to choosing this model

Recently we learned that one of our small groups is using a book rather than a pre-formatted 6-8 week study. The leader, Becky Hess, is finding it to be a refreshing change of pace and has offered us some observations about how it is going.

The group is looking at this as a kind of "book club" experience. To carry this off well, all the members of the group need to own the idea and commit to being actively involved in the discussion planning and of course in the discussion itself.

The book that they are currently using is The Promise, by Robert Morgan (dealing with Romans 8:28). When members received their books, everyone agreed to read the first chapter and come to the next meeting with one or two questions from the material to ask others in the group. Becky is finding this a great model, as long as the group members follow through on getting their reading done and bringing their questions. It hasn't always worked out that way. When the members don't prep, discussion can be very limited. However this is providing a good coaching opportunity for Becky to help the group members see how important each of them is to the success of the experience.  The side benefit: It is providing experience to everyone in leading a study as they do the reading and preparation before the meeting.

Specifically, Becky has asked the group members to come up with one of these options to bring to their meeting:

  • A question that they were asking themselves about the reading.
  • A question from their understanding of the material.
  • An experience from the past or present in their own lives that ties into the material in the chapter.

Becky is enjoying this experience, and is communicating between meetings via text to coach the group members, which is helping build consistency and enthusiasm for the study.

Our take on this concept is that, as a leader, you provide structure for your meeting time. If  you’ve chosen a book that doesn’t support your structure, this can be a challenge for you.  It’s always best to use professional curriculum that have open ended questions.  However, if you are brave enough to chose a book study, you will need to figure out the structure and routines that curriculum typically provides for you. Becky has done this well, putting the onus on the group to share the responsibility. The success of the group meetings doesn’t all stand or fall on her because everyone has a part of it.  

We looked up this concept to get some outside opinions on how it works. Here's an excerpt from a 2012 article by Sam O'Neal from Smallgroups.com about using a book instead of curriculum for your group.

Many small groups prefer to interact with a well-known book instead of using shorter curriculum guides. These are usually the "cream of the crop" from Christian prose, including titles such as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman or Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Some groups enjoy digging into controversial works—The Shack by William P. Young would be a good example. Many of these books are now accompanied by journals or workbooks designed for use in a small group.

There are several advantages to this approach. For one thing, books that have weathered the test of time usually contain genuinely life-changing material. They are great books, pure and simple, and they can have a deep impact on small-group participants. These kinds of studies are also a nice break from the "same old, same old" feel of many curriculum guides. They offer something new and a little more exciting.

The danger of taking this approach is that it can be hard to pair these books with an in-depth study of Scripture. The material in the book usually takes precedence over God's Word. That's okay for a six to eight week break every now and again, but it becomes less appealing if a group wants to study these kinds of books most of the time. At some point, things transition from a small group to a book club.

Another disadvantage of this approach is that it can be quite expensive, especially if you are asking group members to purchase both the original book and a group-based study guide.

from An Overview of Small Group Material

i am n - From Voice of the Martyrs

At least two McLane small groups have used or are currently using this challenging six week video-based study from Voice of the Martyrs.  It is an overview of the current persecution of Christians in the Middle East, primarily by ISIS.

Here is a link to a video overview of the study.

I Am N reminds us that we are each "n," the Arabic letter that radical Muslims use to identify followers of Jesus the Nazarene.

Scripture calls us to count the cost of following Jesus. For our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, that cost can be extremely high.

In this curriculum, our eyes are opened to the present day reality of their plight. The material is presented in a way that provides inspiration to how we might pray for them and otherwise support them in their time of greatest need.

Chris Norris, a leader of one of our Erie small groups, had this to say about their time with this study:

The curriculum was incredibly challenging and eye-opening. Our group was moved to prayer and awareness of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for the sake of their faith. Highly recommended but be prepared to feel convicted!

The study material is comprised of a book, a participants guide, and the videos, which are available on RightNow Media.  The book is composed of short chapters relating the personal stories of persecuted Christians. They are grouped in six categories, which follow the themes of the curriculum: Sacrifice, Courage, Joy, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Faithfulness.

Roger Scarlett, who also led a group with this curriculum, describes the experience as "very revealing as to the heartbreaking reality of what is happening in the world to our Christian family members." He said that his group is "having great discussions about how our faith calls us to be the light of Christ in a dark world." 

The material is not all gloom and despair. Christians in the Middle East are also seeing doors opening to the Gospel message as never before from many Muslims who are ashamed of what ISIS is doing. This is very encouraging.

Both group leaders give a strong recommendation for other groups to consider using this curriculum.

Caring for Your Group Members - Financial Crisis

From time to time, many people go through a season where they are in a temporary financial pinch. When this happens to someone in your small group, you as their group leader can play a role in helping them over that hump.

Our Church Care Fund is a ministry designed to meet these needs and we encourage you to fill out the form.  (Note: this form is behind a password page. All small group leaders have been made aware of that password. However if you have misplaced or forgotten what it is, email us at grouplife@mclanechurch.org and we will be glad to provide it to you.) Your site pastor will respond to you directly within 48 hours during the weekdays. (It may be 72 hours over the weekend.)  

Simple guidelines are:

  • The Care Fund addresses basic needs of groceries, clothing (i.e. snow boots), rent, medical bills, and car repairs & payments.
  • This is available for catastrophic emergency needs, such as fire, and traveling expenses related to out-of-town medical care.
  • Anyone within the church or outside of the church who has any of the above needs may benefit from the Care Fund.
  • Any payments may take up to a week.

Thank you for being on the front lines of this important way that McLane Church is able to bring a blessing to people during their time of need.  If you have any questions about this process or its applicability to a specific situation, feel free to get in touch with Tavia or Roger.


If your group has been wondering how to serve together in our region, one of the best ways to do this is jumping on board with ServErie. You can sign up as an individual, or as entire group. They do all the organizing of the projects, and all you and your group needs to do is show up, ready to get to work.  So, what is ServErie? 

ServErie is a community renewal program spearheaded by churches across the Erie area.  Our desire is to connect willing volunteers with specific neighborhoods and organizations who are poised to serve those in need in our city.  Our dream is to see the statistics associated with poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, high school dropout rates, etc. begin to go down instead of up. We believe that as hundreds of individuals, families, groups, and churches come together and adopt neighborhoods and agencies that eventually we can blanket the whole city with the love and hope of the gospel.

Learn more about ServErie

Help Guests Feel Warm and Welcome

These helpful hints are useful for any small group.

By Reid Smith

When people visit your small group for the first time, they come with all sorts of questions. "Will we like it?" "Will we connect with the people there?" "Will this be helpful for us?" Just showing up can be intimidating because they don't know how they'll be received, if they'll feel like they "fit," and if they'll want to return.

And that's human nature, of course—most people feel less than relaxed entering a new social situation with new people in a new place. But there are things you can do as the small-group leader to help ease any tension that guests may be feeling. Here are some tips to help your guests feel more comfortable, received, and accepted in your small group.

Read full article on smallgroups.com

How to Handle Emotions in Your Small Group

When groups value authenticity, it’s only a matter of time before we face a highly emotional moment.

By Jon Noto

Would you opt into being a Bible study leader if you had absolutely no knowledge of the Bible? Your answer is likely "no." It's certain that any discussion would require some familiarity with the Bible, and you'd want to be prepared with at least a baseline level of knowledge.

In the same way, we need to be prepared—at least at a baseline level—to engage with people at a deep heart level if we desire authenticity in our small groups. When our groups hold the value of authenticity, it's only a matter of time before we'll encounter high emotions, including passion, pain, or fear.

Moments of high emotion can actually be great turning points for groups. But you'll need to plan proactively how you might handle these situations. As with most group dynamics questions, the answer involves a combination of three things: your leadership style, the maturity of the group, and the group's vision for the future (often described in the group agreement). In this article you'll find six ways to minister to group members in the midst of emotional moments.

The Basics of Facilitating



Serving Project Small Group Questions

So your small group has decided to break out of the normal routine of weekly meetings. You are going to meet together and tackle a community project, visit a nursing home, help in the kitchen at church. How do you capitalize on the experience? How can you make the serve more than just a task-based event on your group members' calendar?

Former Erie site pastor Paul Macosko has provided a list of questions that you can use the next time your group gets together.  It's a great way to reflect on what happened to your group members and their perspective on that experience.

  1. Have each member who went on the serve talk about a memorable/poignant/humorous moment during the project.
  2. What were your thoughts or feelings before we served?
  3. Was there anything particularly difficult for you about the project?
  4. What did you learn about yourself, our group, or our city as a result of participating in the project?
  5. Our church's mission is to "Eliminating barriers to give people access to Jesus Christ." How you feel doing service projects furthers that mission?
  6. Do you think our group should go back to the same place or try something different for our next project?

Can you add to this list of questions?  Feel free to post comments with this article to provide ways to build on and improve this idea.

Movie Discussion Series - A Fun Summer Option!

Small groups often change up their routine during the summer months. Throw in a picnic, a Seawolves game, maybe a day trip together somewhere fun.  But what about something to keep your spiritual muscles working, while at the same time doing it differently than the normal routine?

Smallgroups.com has created a series of studies based on movies that might be an interesting option to consider.  You may want to get together one week to watch the movie, and at the next meeting you could use the study guide to discuss specific scenes within the film.  

Here are the movies in the discussion series (click the title for the study guide), along with links to investigate the movie further:

Dead Poets SocietyIMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

Les Miserables (1998 version) - IMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

RadioIMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003 version) - IMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

About a Boy (2002 version) - IMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

Finding NeverlandIMDB / Rotten Tomatoes / Amazon

Want to be an All Star? Serve in our kitchen!

Each week over a thousand people come through the doors of McLane Church.  Most of them enjoy a nice meal before or after their worship service. That wouldn't happen if it weren't for the willing hands and hearts of those whom we call our Kitchen All-Stars.

We would love to have your small group become part of our team, serving together on a given weekend, or as individuals if that is more convenient for their schedules.  Our team members prep, cook, serve and clean up the food and drink.

To learn more, or to join this team, simply drop an email to info@mclanechurch.org or fill out a MAP card while you're in church.

Calling All Cars!

From time to time the Care Ministry at McLane Church is approached with a need for transportation. Namely, the person needs a car, but has no means to acquire one on their own.

It may be that you have a vehicle that you have been considering trading in or selling for a newer model.  Perhaps you may want to consider donating that car to McLane Church and receive a tax deduction for it's fair market value.  

If you would like to make a vehicle contribution, please contact us by email at carefund@mclanechurch.org with the details.

Weekly Prayer Requests

Prayer Button

We invite your group to include into its prayer time a weekly list that comes from the leaders of McLane Church. Please feel free to use these prayer issues in any way that fits within your own small group prayer time.

Thanks for helping to expand the depth of prayer intercession for McLane Church!



Prayers for this week - 11/8/18

  • For those being baptized this weekend at all sites.

  • For a willingness for people to continue serving...with passion.

  • For a deep desire for growth in the Lord.

  • For our families to be strengthened from our upcoming sermon series on marriage.

  • For the healing of Pastor Brian’s broken arm.

  • For the emotional needs of hurting folks in our congregations.

  • For staff: physical, emotional and spiritual well-being as we seek to serve God through His church.

  • For ministry planning for Advent and Christmas.

  • For families who are grieving the loss of loved ones. May they find help from God through Surviving the Holidays in November.

  • For employment needs of people in our congregation.

  • For Holy Spirit inspired teaching.


I’m groaning. Paul called it “groans of prayers.” Prayers that come from a place of deep desire, of angst. Angst because I’m forcing my passion to submit.  Submit; submit to the work of the Holy Spirit, the timing of a loving, all-knowing Father, the salvation of the Son. I submit my earnestness to God. And while I pray I come to understand what of Paul meant to “contend for the faith.” To contend for the faith is not to voice every opinion I have or even share my angst with others, but to seek to know God’s will; to support the work God is already doing, the making of an artful, beautiful work of a Jesus-centered life. It is His creation, not my project. It takes God’s timing, not my agenda or pious strategy.

For, if my passion were unleashed in words and actions, they would run roughshod over those I love. Damaging them.  Pushing them in damaging ways. I know, because I have done this many times. Because assessing human character,  spiritual weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and knowing right from wrong, is easy compared to the discipleship of a Christ-centered life. The creation of a righteous life is the delicate, nuanced, work of God. He is the master creator. God, our Abba Father, is Love, is fully Present, and has the Heart to die and live for the salvation of a life.  

And so I pray. My role in his art-piece is also a delicate work.  If I’m not careful, attentive, then my sloppy words or actions might make His work more difficult. I need to align my love, my heart to His.  

My prayers hold groans for specific people. They are angst-filled whispers for purposes to be sought after, fought after, and found first by aligning to God, for sin always creates Master-confusion and a divided house. I pray for tenderness and unity to be the goal of ordinary marriage choices, and that that would first be experienced in pursuing a relationship to God. I pray for wisdom for parents who are picking up shattered emotions that they didn’t create, so they can recreate a life in Christ. I pray for the legalist to submit their confident knowledge to the compassion and perfect timing of Sovereignty. I pray for hearts to submit to the Holy Spirit in matters of relationship so truth takes God’s time and love is delivered without judgement or fear or misguided passion. I pray for the Church to welcome the Easter-saved, thanking Him, amazed, that we are His hands and feet.  I need these prayers. They teach me. They free me.  And I cheer for the “art” Abba is doing, in me, in others.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4: 6,7

All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you - that’s the agenda for rejoicing.

Luke 10:20


Weekly Prayer Requests

Pray Button

  We invite your group to begin folding into its prayer time a weekly list that a few of our organized prayer teams are presently using. Please feel free to use these prayer issues in any way that fits within your own small group prayer time.

Thanks for helping to expand the depth of prayer intercession for McLane Church!




    • For God to provide a building and the resources needed for the move in Erie.
    • That God to keep our eyes fixed on Him through this transition to a new location.
    • That distractions would not keep people away from worship on the weekend.
    • For people who are wrestling with change...that God will speak to their hearts and they will listen with obedience.
    • For our next PZ ministry leader in Union City.
    • Prayers for wisdom & discernment as we plan objectives for next year across the Generational Ministries.
    • For a sound engineer in both Erie and Union City.
    • For the upcoming facilities projects in Edinboro and Erie.
    • For God's continued guidance in the operations of our church.