Last year two initial groups under the leadership of Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez shaped the vision for Grace Group ministry and completed their leadership training. In January eight Grace Groups were created and they have been meeting regularly in people’s homes and the church.
Grace Groups meet either weekly or bi-weekly. Each group has one or two leaders and the meetings follow the same basic pattern. Group members share their faith experiences since their last meeting. They review our Sunday sermons with the help of discussion questions provided each week. They share prayer requests and commit to pray for each other between the meetings. The focus is always on thinking about your personal faith journeys and where you are in your relationship with God at the moment. Zhenya says, “We have learned a lot during our Spring session and we will continue to improve and tailor our meetings to make them truly life-giving experience.”
Most people who have become a part of Grace Group share how deeply they appreciate the relationships that they build through the group. They also value meetings as a special time during their busy week when they pause and reflect on their discipleship walks. Zhenya adds, “Some people were concerned about the time commitment in the beginning, but the outcome of their Grace Group meetings has made it all worth it.”
So, what’s next for Grace Groups?
The Grace Groups ministry will continue to grow and impact people’s walks of faith. On Tuesday, June 4 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm in Wesley Hall a Grace Groups Vision Dinner is our celebration of what we have achieved and a time when we dream forward. This event is your perfect opportunity to learn more about this ministry, meet the people who have initiated it and see if becoming a participant, a host of a leader is something God is calling you to do. “I am very grateful that Grace Group leaders described their experience as meaningful and encouraging and nourishing to them,” Zhenya reflects.
Calling all future leaders — or those who might be!
The week of June 16 will kick off another eight-week Leadership training that will go through the summer. During these eight weeks participants will experience Grace Groups, get comfortable with the meeting pattern and learn about Methodist history and theology that is behind our Grace Groups. Zhenya adds, “It’s really exciting to learn how our meetings are deeply rooted in the history of our church. In its early days Methodism grew strong because of such groups that brought people of faith together.” Some of our current Grace Groups members have already committed to participate in the Leadership training.
In the fall we will add more groups in more locations in and near Fort Worth. Our ultimate goal is to have enough Grace Groups that anyone could find one that fits them best and works for their schedule. Grace Group ministry grows with each leader, host and participant. “Everyone contributes to its overall success.”
What Does it Take to Be a Grace Group Leader?
Zhenya says that the ideal Grace Group leader is someone who feels an eagerness to grow in their faith and to share that journey with others. This will be a person who wants to make friends and develop meaningful relationships with other church members they may not yet know. “We’re a “big-tent” church,” Zhenya exclaims, “which means there are lots of different kinds of people worshipping and serving here together in very different ways.”
In addition to the possibility that you may never naturally cross paths with some of the members of our church, Zhenya adds that this is precisely what makes it so important to reach deeper into our faith community to connect with others who want to share the ever-evolving journey of faith through all of the ages, stages, ups and downs of your life. “It’s fun to see people who have never met connect through Grace Groups and discover how their experiences connect, overlap and enrich one another’s journey,” she adds with a smile.
Another thing about being a Grace Group leader that may surprise people is that this experience of leadership is very unlike the traditional model of “leading a group.” “A Grace Group leader is not a traditional teacher,” Zhenya explains. “A Grace Group leader is actually a facilitator — so you’re not dispersing knowledge, you’re not there to fix anyone’s problems, you’re not there to counsel — or to follow a complicated course curriculum. For a Grace Group leader, the meeting framework is ready, sermon discussion questions are provided each week, so it really is only a matter of facilitating the faith-centered conversation.”
On the fence? That’s OK, Too!
Zhenya says that for those who come to the June 4 Vision Dinner, there will be a chance to listen, to learn, and to better understand the Grace Group process, both as a member and as a leader. Signing up for summer training, she adds, is not a commitment to be a leader; it’s a commitment to learning more and exploring more deeply whether Grace Group ministry is something you feel called to do.
“Even if you go through the eight-week summer training, there is no obligation for you to become a leader,” Zhenya says, “So even if you complete the training and decide not to lead a group at this time, you’ll still come out of it with a much deeper understanding about what Grace Groups are about and what role this ministry plays in our church.”
Zhenya says that attendance is very important, so as not to miss out on important concepts of the Grace Groups process. But sometimes in the summer an absence is hard to avoid – life happens and it’s ok. Zhenya assures that flexibility and commitment are key to this process, and she will do her best to make summer schedule agreeable to as many schedules as possible.
The Grace Group summer leadership training groups will begin during the week of June 16, and even if you cannot attend the vision dinner, if you are interested in learning more, please contact Zhenya (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss the possibilities and answer your questions. “Grace Groups are a little like the Walk To Emmaus,” Zhenya observes. “You really can’t describe what this experience is like or the deeper meaning it will bring to your faith journey. We have a number of people lined up to share their experience in our June 4 Vision Dinner, but your own experience will be uniquely your own — you really do have to experience it yourself to fully understand what makes this a truly life-giving experience of faith.”