Christina Sleptzoff leads a small group of young women for McLane GroupLife. Here's her story about the history, challenges and rewards of leading her group.
For the past few years I've been interested in being a part of a small group. However, I was taking grad classes and it was difficult balancing work, homework and the rest of my life. I started leading this small group in Februrary of 2013 and the timing was finally convenient. I had finished my masters and was looking forward to getting more involved with church. Interestingly, it wasn't my intention to LEAD a group, just join one, but between a thought-provoking discussion with Tavia Kelly and a series of coincidental (or not-so coincidental?) events I found myself leading it. I wouldn't have it any other way! It is a weekly blessing in my life :)
We meet on Monday evenings at 6. It is a time that seemed to work well for the majority of people involved in the group. It's nice to start the week off with a little spiritual nudge and to process and apply things we discuss in our meetings as we go throughout the rest of the week.
At the moment, we are just beginning the series curriculum from church's "Live Your Life." We just wrapped up doing a couple curriculums from Craig Groeschel (Altar Ego and Weird). They were great and amazing for personal application!
We begin the meeting with about 20-30 minutes of warm chatter. This allows time for everyone to show up and get caught up. Then we move into our study. Depending on the curriculum and discussion inspired by it, this has lasted anywhere from 30-90 minutes. Then we close with prayer, keeping in mind personal prayer requests. What I enjoy a lot about our group is that once we complete a curriculum, we take a break by having a Funday Monday the following week. This is a time when we get together and enjoy some sort of social activity. It is a great way to take a time out from studying and put some time into getting to know each other a little better in a fun way. In the past we have gone to the beach, painted pottery at Claytopia and, most recently, enjoy a bonfire with mountain pies and s'mores. Mmmm :)
While the combination of people has fluctuated over time, we have been meeting for a little over a year. Last year we met weekly through the summer and that was successful. We have not discussed this summer yet, but, I would like to think we will still meet even if it isn't as frequent.
God at work
It is amazing to see God's constant presence in each woman's life. I suppose it shouldn't be so amazing but, when you see people struggle and how they place their confidence in God it is a reminder to each other of how we should be living. When I see their prayers answered, even if it is in an unexpected way, I'm reminded of how God is always with us. There are quite a few people that I have watched grow in strength, courage, joy and spirituality in my short time as a leader. I feel blessed to be a part of their journey. Each week I'm surrounded by a special group of sisters and to reflect on our journeys brings warmth to my heart. I think all of us have grown more comfortable in sharing about short-comings in our personal lives as well as our personal and spiritual growth. Many of us have benefited from the studies and applying them to our own unique lives to best fit our needs.
We have not done a true service project yet. However, through group, Stephanie Mathews and I discovered our love of volleyball together and that is how McLane Church Volleyball came about...especially with Tavia's encouragement. That has been an incredible and fun adventure on it's own! :)
Leadership & Participatation
We don't really have assigned roles in the group. I really think of myself as a "facilitator" where I just try to keep us on time and read questions aloud. There are a few women who are great at asking open-ended questions and these are great helps in our discussion (this is NOT my strength). I prefer to let everyone be themselves. Some women are content being quiet listeners while others like to talk more. In the long run, I would like to see some people from my group branch out and possibly lead their own group. All in all, we have a variety of personalities and people at different phases of their life. I like that! It is all very natural and pleasant.
In the fall I really faced an issue with regular attendance. Being a career teacher, I was really frustrated that this was happening in my group (tardy slips, please! lol). I had to be a little firm with my group members and ask them to strongly reconsider their commitment to meeting. If they wanted to continue with group, I asked them to make our weekly meetings a priority in their schedule and to keep an open communication with me about attendance. If they weren't able to continue, I shared that there might be other groups meeting at a more convenient time for them and, that there would be no harsh feelings, but consistent attendance was really important to the growth of the group. After seeing who was interested and taking advantage of Group Link, I was able to see our group re-established. It has been solid ever since!
Enhancing the McLane experience
Small group has really reinforced lessons I learn through the sermons at church. It also has really helped me to connect with others. I love seeing my girls at church and just sharing a quick hug and catching up on the end of their week. It has really developed that sense of belonging and church community. I also really enjoy when we can share in sermons and how they apply to us individually. I'm really big on personal application and group can be a very nice devil's advocate, so to say. Hearing different opinions and interpretations challenges my mind and spirituality in a way that helps me grow closer to God. It is irreplaceable. I have grown so much as a person in the past year or so and I can't say enough about how much small group played a role in that!
Hmm...I think time management and attendance are important. Structure at all can make or break it, depending on how you work things out. I think flexibility is also very important. I've tweaked things over time to best fit my group and it's personality. I encourage my members and try to create an atmosphere of comfort so that each person feels at peace and not judged. Snacks are always nice. And, I think it's important to be okay with taking breaks - taking breaks together to do something fun AND taking breaks from each other around busy times of year (ie. holidays). Remember life happens and sometimes you just have to roll with it. It's all a process...I find asking my girls for input is really helpful. I want them to know I value their thoughts all the time, too.
- Thanks so much for sharing your group leadership journey, Christina. Leaders, please share your thoughts about Christina's piece below. We'd love to hear from you!