By Susan Shinn Turner
Are you ready to dig deeper into relationships at St. John’s, draw closer to Christ, and serve the community? Consider joining a LifeGroup.
A GroupLink event to match small group participants is slated for Sunday, March 11, from 6:30 to 8 pm in Peeler Hall. Participants will be brought together in groups of eight to 12 who are in the same stage of life or who hold a common interest, says Pastor Laura Henrik, who leads the LifeGroup effort as pastor for discipleship.
For example, LifeGroups could be set up for young moms, for couples with young children, for singles — for anyone who wants a small-group experience within the framework of a larger congregation.
“Sometimes on Sunday mornings, life gets chaotic,” Pastor Laura says. “You may see lots of faces, but not have a chance for conversation. A LifeGroup is a group to journey together in faith. This is a group that becomes a church inside a bigger church.”
LifeGroups are also encouraged to take on service projects, Pastor Laura adds. “It’s not only about sharing stories or sharing a Bible study, it’s about finding a group of people to be disciples with.”
Members who have agreed to be LifeGroup leaders will attend GroupLink, to help facilitate connections, Pastor Laura says.
Four groups from the original GroupLink two years ago are still active. Members of all four groups have found value in being part of a LifeGroup.
Jill and Wayne Nelson are in a LifeGroup led by Doug and Donna Groce. Mike Jacobsen and David and Julie Carr are also members. The group evaluated after one year and decided to stay together, Jill says, in part because Julie had just been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
“At that point,” Jill says, “we were committed to Julie. We met people and got intimately involved with people we would not have been as involved with.”
On Ash Wednesday, their LifeGroup ate the Wednesday meal together and then attended worship together.
“We have had some service projects,” Jill adds. “Everybody has made a commitment to be there. That has been strengthening to all of us. I think we all still find the small group to be a valuable part of our lives.”
“Our life group has become more like family to us,” she says. “They have been especially helpful with all we have been through this past year. They have prayed with us and supported us by helping take me to appointments so David didn’t have to miss too much work. We’ve laughed together, cried together, studied together and celebrated together. We have formed lifelong friendships with people we may not have connected with on this level if it weren’t for the LifeGroup formation two years ago.”
Willi Beilfuss’ LifeGroup still meets monthly to pack backpacks for Food for Thought. His group has lost members to death and illness, and other members have endured surgeries. They’ve also all had grandchild duty occasionally. Still, Willi says he is a proponent of small groups. “We really have an appreciation for each other,” and adds that shared tasks help solidify LifeGroups.
Donna Weinhold continues to lead the Ladies LifeGroup, whose members include Gretchen Witt, Melody Moxley, Carol Pomeroy, Robin Cohen, and Linda Phillips. This group, which meets twice a month for dinner at Donna’s house, has a heart for service. They’ve cooked for the Comfort Food Ministry, participated in the Lily Pad Haven project, fixed breakfast at Rowan Helping Ministries, and taken supplies to Autumn Care.
“We have been busy and we like it that way,” Donna says. “The best thing about our meetings is that we are now sisters in Christ. We would love to have more ladies join us.”
Lauren and Brad Stephenson are part of a LifeGroup led by Michael and Danielle DeNise. Other members include Corey and Jennifer Gebhardt, Ben and Kelly Goodman, Molly Connell and Penny Moss.
“We have loved being part of a small group,” Lauren says. “It allows us to have a small community within the larger church. Our group has walked through a few Bible studies together, but more importantly, we have walked through new jobs, family illnesses, births, and deaths. We have laughed — a lot — cried, and held each other up. As a mom in a busy, stressful season of life, these relationships have felt like a lifeline. I am able to hold onto Jesus more easily with the help of these people.”