HOW TO USE THE GPS TOOL
From January 5th until February 15th all LIFE Group leaders will begin trying to use the GPS Tool (and the Group Covenant tool). Please read below for support on how to implement the GPS Tool. [NOTE: This tool comes from Garrett Higbee and his ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel – http://biblicalsoulcare.org/uncommoncommunity]
GPS = GROUP’S POSITION SPIRITUALLY
LIFE GROUP GOAL: to provide a community where disciplemaking disciples are made. Remember, at Stonebridge we desire to walk alongside each person we meet as they take their next step toward Jesus. We do this in LIFE Groups by using the Word of God to care for and influence that person in our group for the mission of Christ. But this care and influence that leads a person to become a disciple who makes other disciples only happens in a community of other Christians. Community is crucial to becoming a true disciple. How so?
- We learn how to love God by learning how to keep His commands, most of which involve loving, serving and forgiving our fellow Christians.
- We are helped in the fight to resist sin, stay in God’s Word, pray and submit to the Lordship of Christ by the encouragement of our brothers and sisters.
- We are transformed through the renewing of our minds that comes from personal Bible study, but it also comes from the biblical counsel, prayer, encouragement and exhortation of the Body of Christ.
- We are propelled forward to complete Christ’s mission of disciplemaking through the motivation of other believers.
Again, we cannot grow as a disciple without being in community. But community is not just a place for friends to gather to “snack and yack,” as one pastor from Kentucky puts it. 🙂 This will not produce true disciples. Community that produces true disciples must be spiritually maturing. The members must be seeking to go deeper with God together. It must also be relationally vulnerable. The members must be willing to humble themselves before God and before each other. They must be willing to share their hearts and struggles and confess their sins to each other so they can pray for each other and be healed. And they must love each other enough to offer a safe and restorative place to share and confess so vulnerably. This is the kind of community that we desire LIFE Groups to offer. This is why we are learning how to do “soul care” through the exercise of the various tools like the GPS tool. We want to provide a community where disciplemaking disciples are made.
GPS TOOL PURPOSE: the GPS provides you and your group members a systematic way to clearly communicate about and assess the spiritual maturity and vulnerability of your LIFE Group.
GPS EXPLANATION: be sure to look at the GPS Tool while reading this explanation.
Vertical Axis: this highlights 6 key components of a LIFE Group. The goal of the GPS tool is to help your group think about the level of spiritual maturity and vulnerability your group currently has in each of these 6 key areas.
- Prayer – how you pray for each other inside and outside the group time
- Communication – what you talk about in your group and how you talk about it
- Connection – how often you get together and the level of desire to do so
- Commitment – consistency of group attendance and degree of accountability to each other
- Teaching Time – participation amount and depth of discussions; type of discussion on spectrum from information download to mutual ministry applications as a group
- Mutual Ministry – level and depth of sharing struggles and confessing sins; level and depth of immediate and ongoing response to these revelations and confessions
NOTE: you may find that there are other components you would like to assess with your group that are not on this list. Some suggestions might be: 1.) Accountability and 2.) Confidentiality.
Horizontal Axis: this highlights the 4 stages of growing group maturity and relational depth.
Superficial – this is the “forming” stage of your group. In the first few months of a new group there will be a time of superficiality. The 6 key components of a LIFE Group (above) will manifest themselves in immature and shallow ways. The GPS Tool grid gives examples on how this might look. If your group is still here and you have been meeting for more than a few months, something has gone wrong.
Authentic – this is the “norming and storming” stage. Usually in the 6 month to 1 year age of a group the leader will have helped the members begin to “test” the health of the group. They will begin to “storm” or march deeper toward relational intimacy. With the helpful guidance of a Group Covenant, the group will begin to find some “normative” behaviors that give consistency to the group experience. This is a good step, but you do not want to stay here! They must go deeper if you want to make true disciples! EXAMPLE of Authentic: instead of asking for prayer for a sick relative, a member will feel comfortable to say without much detail yet, “We are struggling. Please pray for us.”
Transparent – this is the “performing maturely” stage. Usually in the 9 months to 2 year age of a group the leader will have helped the members begin to mature in how to behave as a community of Christians. They will “perform” (in the best sense of the word) the commands to love God and each other in a mature way by the grace of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. They will begin being “real with God” and “real with each other.” They will stop hiding real issues but clearly name their struggles in order to be encouraged by their brothers and sisters and to encourage them. EXAMPLE of Transparent: instead of simply saying “We are struggling,” they will add more intimate detail. They may say, “We are struggling with our marriage. Please pray for us.”
Vulnerable – this is the “transforming culture” stage. Usually after 1 or more years, the group leader will have helped the members become radically vulnerable. At this point of discipleship, members are willing to risk looking weak or stupid so that other people may be drawn into the beautiful life of the community of Christ. Their goal is not simply to be helped themselves, but to help others become disciples. They want to transform culture by being willing to be naked and unashamed in showing others how the Gospel redeems our sins and struggles. EXAMPLE of Vulnerable: They may say, “We are struggling with our marriage. I have failed to love my wife and have been fighting against the temptation to look at porn. Please pray that I will take radical action to cut this sin out of my life. Please come alongside me as my brothers to encourage me in this fight. Sisters, please come alongside of my wife to encourage her to look to Jesus, her forever faithful husband. Please pray that God would heal me and our marriage.”
GPS IMPLEMENTATION STEPS:
Watch two LIFE Group Leaders share how they implemented the GPS and Group Covenant Tools
MEETING #1 – At your next group meeting read together Acts 2:42-47. Have a discussion. Ask questions like: “What was encouraging to you about how the believers were interacting?” “What does true community look like to you?” “Have you ever experienced true community like this in church before? If so, share about it.” Close your meeting by asking your LIFE Group to reflect on the following question and bring prayerful answers to discuss at the next meeting: “What do you desire to get out of this group?”
MEETING #2 – Write down all the responses people give to that question. Tell your group that you will send out the list of answers via email to the whole group. Ask your group members to read and pray over that list. Ask them to think of Bible verses that relate to those answers. Ask them to highlight the answers that seemed the most important goals of group life.
MEETING # 3 – Discuss the Bible verses and begin to form a consensus on what are the most important things to get out of group life. I guarantee two of the key themes will be about deeper relationships and greater spiritual growth. After this discussion, tell your group that as their leader, you want to help lead them toward true community. Explain to them that Stonebridge has given you a tool that will help your group clearly and systematically assess where they are currently at in terms of being a true, biblical community. Hand out copies of the GPS Tool and give a brief explanation of it (see explanation above). Based on where they think the group is now, ask them to take a week to prayerfully rate each of the 6 group components (vertical axis) from 1 to 10 using the relational vulnerability scale at the bottom of the tool.
MEETING # 4 – Discuss everyone’s ratings. Be sure to write everything down for your records. You may want to email these out to everyone as well. Ask the group what areas look like they need the most work? Ask them what some achievable goals could be in those areas. Ask them what potential challenges exist that may make achieving these goals difficult. Ask them what some specific and measurable steps could be taken to overcoming these challenges and achieving these goals. Make sure to write these down and email them out. Have the group pray over them and bring any additional thoughts to the next meeting.
MEETING # 5 – Have everyone share any additional thoughts about goals, challenges and steps to achieving the goals. Ask them: “What is the best way to help each other stay focused on achieving these goals?” At some point, suggest the idea of a group Covenant. Explain to them that a covenant is not a hoop to jump through. Instead, a covenant gives a group a tangible way to represent their agreed upon values and community practices. Help them understand that if there are no agreed upon goals for change and no agreed upon commitment to achieving those goals, nothing will improve. True community will elude them. Also, help them see that a covenant provides a less awkward way to keep each other accountable. With a covenant you aren’t stuck saying to someone “out of the blue”, “how come you keep missing group?” Instead, you can say, “Hey, Joe, do you remember our group covenant? I’ve missed you the last couple of meetings. Is everything ok?” Let the covenant be the “bad cop” instead of the individual members of the group. Ask them to spend the week praying about the idea of a covenant. Give them a copy of the Covenant Tool as a springboard for their own thinking. Your group may choose to use this covenant or they may come up with one that better suits the needs of your group.
MEETING # 6 – Discuss everyone’s thoughts about a covenant. Spend the group time developing a rough draft of a covenant. Email out the draft and ask everyone to pray over it and come back to finalize the covenant at the next meeting.
MEETING # 7 – Finalize the covenant. Agree to use this covenant as a way to help each other achieve the goal of true, biblical community. Pray together and ask God to bless this effort.