Sometimes those who are part of or join a movement needs to ask themselves, “What have we forgotten that made us who we are?” Maybe some of us in the groups movement would do well to consider that question. Over the last few months I’ve been rereading some books that shaped my view of small group ministry. Going back to John Wesley in the 1700’s right up to small group books I read last year. These readings have taken me on quite a journey, a journey into some fundamentals of group life that may need to be remembered – and rebirthed.
If you’ve been reading the blog this week you know that I’ve been sharing portions of Lyman Coleman’s, Serendipity Encyclopedia, a man and writing that shaped much of my thinking about group life.
Today I want to allow Lyman to enlighten all of us by unearthing his baseball diamond strategy, a strategy that gives us four bases, the four bases that take a group from simply knowing one another to living in biblical koinonia.
He calls this strategy, The Baseball Diamond. He’s schooling us once again.
The Baseball Diamond.
We are ready to ask the questions, “What does group building look like?” and “What is the process for becoming a group?
The best illustration we can use is a baseball diamond, with home plate being “koinonia” or depth Christian community. This is what a small group needs to become… like the Upper Room gathering in the 50 days leading to Pentecost. And to get to home plate, you have to go around three bases like the three bases of a baseball diamond.
First Base: History Giving. Some people call this “unpacking.” We call it “history giving” because we want you to tell your spiritual story to one another.
- YOUR PAST: Your roots. Early memories. Significant people and places. Milestones in your spiritual development.
- YOUR PRESENT: Where you are right now in your spiritual pilgrimage.
- YOUR FUTURE: Where you want to be. Your hopes and dreams.
Your “story” is important to your group if you are ever going to be a caring community. The GREATEST GIFT you can give your group is the gift of your story.
Second Base: Affirmation. Some people call this “feedback, “ but feedback could mean negative response and we do not believe a group should ever engage in negative feedback.
We prefer the method that Jesus used when he called Simon a “Rock,” and changed his name and his life with this affirmation; or when he said to Zacchaeus, “I see you as a son of Abraham” – that is, somebody of value. (He in fact, was a son of Abraham, but he wasn’t acting like one… and it took the affirmation of Jesus to help him see this.)
Second base is saying something like, “Thanks for sharing…”; “I appreciate what you shared…”; “Your story became a gift to me…” we specifically work on this in the group-building process.
Third Base: Goal Setting. Once affirmed, the group is ready to move on and share on a deeper level. This is sometimes called the need level. Ask the group members to explain this in the positive: “Where do you need to move on…” “What is God saying to you?” “What is keeping you from…?”
Third base is what the disciples must have shared when they returned to the Upper Room after Christ’s ascension – scared, frightened, confused and hurting. Can you hear the disciples in the room saying, “I can’t believe that God has left us”; “I’m afraid”; “I’m angry”? And can you imagine the Holy Spirit beginning to reach out to these hurting people and “bind up their wounds” as he had promised? The Holy Spirit was discovered in this atmosphere of broken people.
Home Plate: Koinonia. Nowhere in the Bible is the Greek word koinonia defined. It defies definition. But the disciples must have experience something in the Upper Room, because they were empowered with a new kind of power. The “walking wounded” became the “wounded healers” in this community of love and support.
Some have tried to describe this as bonding, as catharsis, as a symphony orchestra of individual instruments – each contributing their gift. But once a group reaches this level of being, lives are changed and the church becomes alive! The power and ministry of the Holy Spirit is released. This is what the first six to eight weeks in a small group are all about – birthing and bonding.
All of us should be thankful to Lyman for his decades of traveling across the nation, for months at a time, teaching church leaders how to do small groups. While you may not agree with all that he says, you should never question that you have the opportunity to lead a group ministry because Lyman Coleman started a movement that continues to this day.