Caring for the People I Disciple

photo of people showing affection on one another

By: Emily Grabatin

As leaders, building relationships and can be a meaningful, fun and energizing experience – until crises happen. Or we find ourselves spending evenings on the phone with people who are turning to us to solve their problems or validate a compromising situation.

The Loads We Carry

Over time, we might encounter heavy issues like death, divorce, addiction, depression, job loss, financial crisis. On some level, we can become the positive presence people can lean on. But sometimes seasons of life arise that are too heavy or intense for a few to handle on their own. Some weightier issues that take a longer time to heal or are deeply rooted in the past require more support. That’s one reason we recommend your disciple-making group is connected in some way to a local church and a pastor.

Who Can Help?

Whether you’re a new disciple-maker with lots of questions or a seasoned leader, you’ll want to develop a collaborative relationship with your pastor from the start. This makes a big difference when you have questions about how to handle a surprising dynamic or the person you are serving enters a difficult season.

Let’s say Cathy is leading a women’s group and someone without healthy boundaries starts cornering people after the meeting to share all her negative situations. Or, let’s say Andy and Christa lead a group of couples and one couple separates or decides to divorce. Unless the leaders are counsellors, they’re probably not equipped with the skills to offer that woman or couple the level of care they’ll need, nor would the group be the appropriate place to focus that depth of personal conversation.

Partnering with church leadership, the next level of care for your group might include pastoral counselling, referrals to community resources or recommendations for attending a support session such as Freedom Sessions, DivorceCare or Financial Peace University. The team approach releases the leader to do what it does best, preserving the groups’ main focus without undermining its purpose. It also equips individuals with a stronger support system.

Connection and Relationships Matter 

Because it’s a partnership united around the heart of seeing the group members heal and grow spiritually, this isn’t about handing someone off. It’s still important for the group to maintain a relational connection.

In the case of the couple going through separation or divorce, it’s common for one of the spouses to check out and not respond to your attempts to make contact. It’s also common for these kinds of seasons to be so emotionally draining and time demanding that they don’t have the energy or time to attend meetings like they used to. Those relationships can be an essential support system as people navigate difficult a new reality.

In the examples we explored earlier, it’s important that the couple’s situation or the woman’s lack of boundaries doesn’t become the ongoing main focus of the group’s time together. A group’s purpose isn’t to address major life crises on an ongoing basis. Partnering with the church enables pastors and professional counsellors to step in and do a lot of the heavy lifting, while the group offers emotional, relational and spiritual support.

You Don’t Have to Have the Answers

When group leaders and pastors team up, we don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to fix it. We just need to be willing to be there for the people we are discipling. Through our presence, listening and sensitive encouragement, we get to help them see Jesus as the main source of their comfort, provision and strength while other support systems are put in place.

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