What We've Learned as Community Group Facilitators
IN THE FALL OF 2014, DEB AND I WERE INVITED TO JOIN Pastor Gregg and Carla Miller’s community group. We were immediately made to feel welcome and were right at home with the group. In no time we felt like we’d known these people forever. And, as so often has been mentioned, it was great to see people at church on Sunday that we really know. Despite being one of the larger groups - 14 members with 10-12 attending most weeks - the entire group has developed close relationships with each other. Interestingly, even though there are two great Italian cooks in our group, we aren’t too focused on food. There is no shortage of “community” in our group, however. Some of the funniest stories we’ve ever heard have been shared within our group. Injecting humor into the daily happenings of life may be one of our groups’ special talents.
However, food isn’t entirely absent from our group. Outside of our regular weekly meetings we’ve enjoyed each other’s company at several group meals and even a couple concerts. One meal featured a now famous meatball contest between two of our members; an event that’s still talked about today.
When Pastor Gregg decided to retire in 2015, he and Carla also decided to step away from facilitating the community group. Although we were the newest members of the group, or maybe BECAUSE we were the newest members, and wouldn’t know enough to say no, we were asked to take over as facilitators. With some trepidation, we accepted. While at the most basic level I describe our role as that of game show host – we ask the questions and keep track of the time - in reality there’s much more to it and I think we’ve learned a great deal along the way. We’ve become much better active listeners, making sure the conversation stays on track and that everyone is engaged in it. We’ve also learned that we don’t always have to have the answer to questions that are raised. Sometimes all that’s required is a bit of compassion.
We’ve supported each other through aging parent challenges, the deaths of two parents, job and career changes, family and children issues (even though none of us have children still living at home, the issues that arise with them seem to remain), and personal medical issues. It’s been comforting to learn that life can be messy and difficult for all of us at times. And it’s been a privilege and a comfort to be on both the giving and receiving end of the support and prayers our group offers to each other. Also, we’ve been inspired many times by the different circumstances that have given rise to gospel sharing opportunities at work, school, and even during the regular chores of life (grocery shopping, etc.).
We’ve been involved in a few different projects on the missionary front. Long before we joined it, some members of our group were involved in the startup of Hands Open Wide (HOW) and are still participating in that ministry every other Saturday. For the last 2 years our group has participated in the Hartford City Mission Christmas Store by donating presents that parents can purchase at deep discounts. The proceeds from the store are used to subsidize the cost of the Mission’s sleepover summer camp. Truly a win-win!
Finally, we recently adopted Katelyn Warner as our missionary to support. We provided meals after their baby was born and support her with prayer. We also plan to include the Warners in any special activity or outing we do.
Participating in our community group has allowed us to develop deeper relationships with people in the church we might not have otherwise met. Facilitating the group has been a challenge well worth taking on, because it’s helped us become more fully engaged in the life of the church.