Let’s talk about the top tier of things that really matter in terms of creating spiritually vibrant people. There are things that don’t matter very much, things that matter a little, but these things matter a lot.
The first one is feeling loved by the people in the group. Here is the statement: “I feel loved by the people in my group.” People who strongly agreed with this statement were more than twice as likely (111%) to be in the top tier of spiritually vibrant people when compared with people who only agreed or disagreed with that statement. Creating a group where people strongly agree that they feel loved by the people in the group creates spiritually vibrant people.
Feeling loved also had a positive correlation with the growth of the group.
Isn’t this what the Bible says?
|Jn 13:34||“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.|
|Jn 13:35||By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”|
|Jn 15:12||My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.|
|Jn 15:17||This is my command: Love each other.|
|Ro 13:8||Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.|
|1Th 4:9||Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.|
|1Pe 1:22||Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.|
|1Pe 4:8||Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.|
|1Jn 3:11||Love one another.|
|1Jn 3:11||This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.|
|1Jn 3:23||And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.|
|1Jn 4:7||Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.|
|1Jn 4:11||Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.|
|1Jn 4:12||No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.|
|2Jn 1:5||And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.|
How can this happen?
I asked my wife to share a testimony:
One of the wonderful things in my life is that I love and feel loved by the ladies in my Sunday school class. Not only do I love them…I’m crazy about them and at the risk of sounding full of myself, I think they’re pretty gaga about me, too!
The thing is I haven’t always felt that way. Same ladies over the past few years, but very different feelings. I have been a part of this class for four years, but it took close to two years before I felt a close bond with most of them. You want to know what made the difference between just being a part of something and feeling community? Feeling like a family? Spending time with them. And it’s not JUST spending time with them that made the difference. It is what we talk about and share during that time that builds that “girlfriend” kind of love. It all started when someone in our group had a wonderful idea. The idea went like this…“Let’s all get together for lunch this month and bring a gift for all of the gals who have birthdays during that month.” We all liked the idea and showed up for lunch – I think there were 8 of us-we’ve been doing it ever since.
During those times together, we’ve found out that one of our friends lost two husbands in tragic accidents, we’ve prayed with one of our pals whose son was in a horrible accident while serving in the military – that same friend lost her mother who she was very close to. We prayed for her and were sad with her. Our group truly knows what it means to bear one another’s burdens. One in our group has grown children who haven’t spoken to her in years. All of us who are mothers (and not all of us are) grieve with her and do our best to be there for her as friends who understand. This same friend just lost her sister after taking care of her during her last days. We’ve had financial struggles, job changes, and sickness, but we’ve also had celebrations and happy times to share. There is nothing like cheering with a friend when they or someone in their family has experienced victory. When you’ve been praying for them, it’s your victory, too!
For me, it’s pretty easy to figure out. You want to love and be loved by those in your small group? Make spending time with them a priority. I know you are busy, so am I, but you’ll figure out a way to make it happen if you really want to. I guarantee it is an investment worth making. You’ll grow to love ‘em and think they’re “all that.” Who knows? They might just think the same of you!
How to create close personal friends in the group. Here are a few more findings we discovered as we drilled down deeper into the data:
- Home groups tended to do better at making people feel loved than did on-campus groups.
- Size of the group didn’t matter a lot one way or the other.
- Discussion groups felt loved more often than lecture-oriented groups.
- This was surprising. Groups with practical teaching were more likely to feel loved by the people in the group–by a huge margin. Those in practical classes were two and a half times more likely to feel loved as compared with those in content-oriented classes.
- Groups with accountability were more likely to feel loved than those who didn’t have accountability.
- Groups that were open and honest and encouraged transparency were over three times as likely to feel loved by the group.
- Groups that regularly participate in conversational prayer are twice as likely to feel loved by the people in the group.
- Groups with more activities were more likely to feel loved by the people in the group.
- Here is a no-brainer. People with lots of friends were more likely to feel loved by the people in the group by a margin of two and a half times!
- Growing groups were more likely to report feeling loved by the people in the group. (Or is it the other way around; we can never be sure what causes what.) It may be that groups where people feel loved are more likely to be growing. All we know for sure is that feeling loved and growth tend to go together. The opposite is also true. People are not as likely to feel loved in a group that is not growing.
- Where people felt loved by the teacher, they are (nearly) seven times more likely to feel loved by the people in the group. This was, by far, the biggest differentiating factor we discovered.
- Having attended a group a long time tends to make us feel more loved by the people in the group but only marginally so.
Summary: if you want to create a group where people feel loved, concentrate on the following: plan lots of group activities, create an atmosphere of openness and honesty, pray together in conversational prayer, and love the group yourself.