As many of you know, LIFE Groups are an integral part of the culture of New Hope. I would even go as far to say that they are the life blood (ahem, LIFE blood) of our church. Sure, we all enjoy coming together on Sunday mornings during Central Gathering, exchanging hugs and checking in with all of those who make up our church family, but real life happens the other six days of the week. During these LIFE Groups we aim to Learn Biblical Truth, Intercede for one another, Fellowship, and Extend LIFE to others. These groups aren’t just Bible studies, they are meant to be tight knit communities of believers who desire to grow in their knowledge of the Scripture, pray for one another throughout the week, encourage one another in their faith, and continually look for ways to engage together those who don’t know Jesus yet with the Good News! We think this is so important that we even offer this same model in our children’s ministry, KidsLIFE. It’s this last letter of the acrostic that has recently been heavy on my heart. What does it looks like to "Extend LIFE" to my friends? What does it look like for my kids?
God has recently given my husband and I a desire to help empower our kids to extend LIFE to their friends. Upon talking to our nine-year-old and seven-year-old daughters, we realized that they face many of the same challenges. I thought it might be helpful to walk through some of these challenges to extending LIFE that our family is trying to work through:
1. I don’t know enough.
This is such a common misconception, and it is a lie straight from the enemy! We don’t need to have a seminary degree to tell people about Jesus, but Satan sure knows how to render us ineffective by planting the seed of inadequacy! The truth is we're called to share what we know with who we know! Anyone, even my seven-year-old, can share about the work that Christ has done in her own life. It’s okay to admit to someone you don’t have the answer, just merely tell them that you aren’t sure, and that you will have to look into that. Now you already have a second conversation starter!! I think our kids already have a natural desire to tell their friends about Jesus, but encouraging them to just share what they know can be so liberating. Honestly, it can even be liberating for me!
2. Who do I share with?
A ministry tool that was shared with me during my college years in Christian Challenge is the Circle of Three. It was so helpful then, and I still use it today! It is a super simple method of praying and pursuing specific people God has put on your heart. You guessed it! The Circle of Three is just a list of three peoples’ names! This is something so straightforward, that even the youngest child could name three friends. It can help focus our prayers, cause us to be more intentional, and ultimately can give us a real desire for our friends to know the hope that can be found in God. When talking to my children about a circle of three, it opened up conversations about our need to have friends who come from believing families (church friends!) and also a need for friends who do not yet have a relationship with Christ. As a parent, I desperately want my kids to be surrounded with amazing friends, preferably from believing families. However, I also know the importance of having friends who may have never even stepped foot inside a church. For those of you who know me, or maybe you even read my story in a previous New Hope Newsletter article, you know that I was “that friend.” Had my friend’s parents not allowed her daughter to be friends with non-believing families, I wouldn’t be who I am today! As much as I would love to keep all of my sweet babies in a blissful blessing bubble, I also want to choose to trust that God has a bigger plan for them than I could ever dream! I can’t let my own fears and inhibitions inadvertently hold back the spread of the Good News!
3. Now what?
So, we know we don’t need be a pastor to talk to our friends about God. We have identified three friends who we want to intentionally pursue and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. But, now what? Schedule a play date, help your child see the playground or lunch room as an opportunity to ask whether their friend has ever been to church or what they think about God. Help foster your child’s curiosity for others. Kids are so open to these “taboo” topics that make adults squirm. What a blessing! Better yet, plan a sleepover on a Saturday night. Ask the parents if it is okay if their child joins yours for Summer KidsLIFE. Who knows? It could be the mustard seed that surprises us all!
Empowering my own kids to extend LIFE to their friends has been so good for my own spiritual growth. It has caused me to really examine my own fears, misconceptions, and need to grow in this area in my life. You know, it might not be as simple as inviting a friend over for a slumber party, but it isn’t as hard as the enemy would like to make it seem either.