The New Testament prizes the church as community where people rejoice and weep together, care for the sick and hurting, confess their sins, provide prayer support, and encourage and challenge each other spiritually.
But when a small group includes people who don’t really know one another, a loving and caring community doesn’t happen automatically. The leader must work to encourage it.
One helpful tool is Life Stories. As we share who we are and what we have experienced, we grow in understanding each other; we offer grace and prayer for hurts and struggles; and we encourage and rejoice together over God’s goodness and faithfulness.
I am at my best with friends whom I have known so long that it seems like forever. We have watched each other’s life stories unfold over time. We have learned that we can trust each other with who we really are. Life Stories have helped expand that group because they close my gaps in understanding who these women are and what they have experienced.
So how does it work practically?
When I was first introduced to Life Stories, our group used the 4 Hs as an outline: Heritage, Heroes, Highlights, and Hardships. The first time I told my story I had enough time to share the entire thing because it was our only agenda and we had a lot of time.
It was different when we incorporated Life Stories into small groups in our women’s Bible studies, however. Because we also had a lesson to discuss each week and limited time together, we found that it was best to add a week to the study, giving each group time for everyone to share the same part of the story that day (which was usually about 3-4 weeks into the study). We generally began with Highlights or Heroes because Hardships and Heritage often involve hurtful memories, so we saved them for later.
Each semester we set aside one or two days, depending on the calendar and the length of the study, to share one aspect of our stories. Women brought pictures or remembrances if they wanted. We set a time limit per person by dividing the time we had by the number of women who were there.
And we grew as community because we grew in our understanding of each other. Now we were better able to meet the needs of the precious women in our groups.
If you are a small group or Bible study leader and would like a handout explaining the 4Hs, contact BOW and ask.