At G4, we believe that there are seven principles or core values that guide the way our groups are led as well as the ways in which we set-up and establish rhythms. As we evaluate our ministry, we hope to do so through the lens of these seven core values and how well we are holding to each of them. As we are investing in the lives of others, we believe that the following areas will help us to minister well to those who are participating in our ministry:
- Bible-Based & Gospel Centered
Programs do not change people; the Holy Spirit is the one who causes and facilitates change. We believe that information alone cannot be the source of change, but it is the power of the Gospel that allows people to find the hope that change is possible. We believe that the power of the gospel can be found in both information and people; therefore, we have chosen to include both relational and informational aspects in G4, but ultimately, we believe the power to change is found in Christ.
Scripture will be a major part of G4, but we do not simply mean that using scripture to answer every question is what is expected from group leaders. Our desire is that the group would use scripture well, and in the context that it is meant to be used. Often there is nothing more harmful than scripture misunderstood and misapplied. Our desire is to allow groups to have honest conversation that is fuel and informed by the changing power of the Word.
2. Recognize the Difference Between Sin & Suffering
Sin and suffering are different in both experience and in healing. At G4, we believe that scripture speaks to sin and suffering differently and in order to follow this model have separate groups for both sin and suffering. The way that one goes about addressing a sin issue and the hurt of suffering are different and necessitate that they be approached differently to be appropriately discussed to find victory.
We believe that as individual believers we are simultaneously saint, sinner, and sufferer. This means that at all times individuals are faced with both the sin in their lives and the suffering caused by their sin or the sin of another. We also believe that a person seeks to address the predominant issue in their life will be done by either addressing the behavior that they as an individual are doing (sin) or those that have happened to the individual (suffering).
- Built on Honesty & Transparency
The ability to be honest about our sin or suffering in a group requires a tremendous amount of courage. Although it can be difficult, it is also an essential part of what Christ calls believers to in faith. It is essential in overcoming life-dominating sin or suffering that we are able and willing to be honest with other believers. G4 groups are meant to create a space that allows for open and honest conversation about the specifics of a person’s struggle.
Because a person will never be more free than they are honest, it is critical that leaders are able to ask questions that will help participants feel as though it is safe to share. The group should encourage participants to share openly and honestly so that they are able to share the love of God through allowing a space for individuals to be heard, perhaps for the first time in a long time.
- Uphold Confidentiality
Groups at G4 are meant to be a place where group members can come and share without fear of their story being shared elsewhere without their permission. While there are risks associated with all group ministries where stories are shared, it is our goal at G4 that our participants would not have to fear their story being shared with someone outside their group.
Often times one of the greatest fears for anyone entering into group counseling is the fear of being “found out” by others they are not ready to share with yet. Because of the fear of being exposed, group members will often hold back parts of their story until they believe that they can trust a group or individuals within the group. The role of the G4 leader here is to speak early and often about the role confidentiality plays in the group expressing the need for confidentiality to be upheld at every opportunity. A ministry such as G4 can only be as successful as it is trusted; therefore, we must earn the trust of participants by being trustworthy.
Much like in individual counseling, confidentiality does not mean a complete and total guarantee of confidentiality. There are rare occasions where confidentiality must be breached for the good of the individual, group, or even church. These situations are rare and should not be dealt with in isolation but should be handle with the assistance of G4 leadership.
- Avoid Struggle-Based Identity
At G4, we recognize that the longer an individual has struggle with an issue in life, the more that single struggle will begin to define them. Identity is one of the most difficult things to define or point out in ourselves until we have single, often negative, attributes to pin on ourselves. At G4, our desire is to see participants understand the identity that they have been freely given through the acceptance of Jesus Christ.
Changing one’s’ identity or perceived identity can be a difficult process. Reorienting all the things that combine to give us our identity is not a process that can happen overnight, nor should we expect it to be as simple as learning new behaviors. Identity is a combination and culmination of all things that make us who we are, and to make necessary changes that will be lasting will take work.
Because we believe that our identity should not be derived simply from a single sin or suffering story, we would not use terms that label individuals by a single action. For example, we would not want to address someone who dealt with addiction as an addict or an alcoholic, but we chose to say that they are an individual who struggles with addiction. We do not want the entirety of their identity to be based in their harmful behaviors.
- Blend Discipleship, Accountability, & A Guided Process
G4’s desire is to delve deeper than a traditional small group or bible study around a particular topic. Due to the relational nature of the groups, G4 hopes to incorporate a practical theology related to their subject through the use of discipleship, accountability and a guided process.
Discipleship: Scripture models discipleship through the life of Christ. In our understanding of discipleship, Christ never does lasting discipleship outside the context of a group. Outside the occasional encounter with single individuals such as the woman at the well, Christ always does discipleship in groups of three or more. G4 desires to follow Christ example by interacting with a plurality of believers so that we are able to sharpen one another.
Accountability: Accountability should not simply represent a set of questions asked weekly but a desire to hold one another to an agreed upon standard. Our goal is not to simply monitor behavior of individuals but to use accountability to lead to growth for participants. Active and not passive accountability is meant to be used in our G4 groups, where participants are routine asked as well as seeking out their own accountability during times of struggle.
A Guided Process: G4 includes a curriculum in each of its groups. Change is difficult and often scary for those who are doing the changing. One of the best ways to reduce fear is to give people a vision or process that can be followed. This process controls the change happening in the sense that it allows participants the ability to see the entirety of the process at once or see it in smaller chunks by viewing it one step at the time.
- Transition into Larger Small Group Ministries
The goal of G4 is to be a temporary place of safety, rest, and restoration for its participants. Our desire is not to see participants permanently attend G4 but to graduate and participate to the fullest extent in Body of Christ. While we do understand the need for participants to take time addressing a particular struggle in their life, we do not want to allow G4 to become a church within a church; therefore, it is our desire to have members, after the appropriate amount of growth, begin to invest in and partner with the other ministries of the church such as small group.
To be known only in the context of a particular struggle is not to be known by the community that God has called us to participate, meaning the church collective. Furthermore, those that have seen victory over a particular struggle are best equipped to help lead others through that same struggle and to not send qualified helpers back into the church community would be working against what Christ has called us as the Body of Christ. This means that they should be willing to step into a small group after having been through G4, understanding that they can address their struggle directly without the fear that their struggle is unique or that it should be hidden because of shame. Their struggle is now part of God’s story and victory in their life and not a story of their shame and shortcomings.