I know what I'm supposed to do to grow spiritually, but without encouragement, I struggle...
We're not meant to walk our journey of faith alone. Combatting this idea, John Wesley famously said, "The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love, is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection." John & Charles Wesley had a group to wrestle with their life of faith and the condition of their soul with at Oxford, so did all the early Methodists (even here at First UMC Salisbury at its founding). Even Jesus, fully divine and fully human, had a small group (Peter, James, John) in the midst of his larger group of disciples (12) in the midst of a larger group of followers (70 sent out in mission) in the midst of the crowds of the world. Maybe you should, too? See below for Frequently Asked Questions, and to sign up for a group!
What are Covenant Groups? Covenant groups are a safe space to reflect on our life of faith and answer the question we can avoid in almost any other setting: How is it with your soul? Covenant groups "watch over one another with love"- sharing one another's joys and burdens and prayers. Covenant groups will receive sample covenants (boundaries and goals of your life together) from Pastor Stacey, as well as two sample meeting orders. NO PREPARATION IS REQUIRED for these groups, simply participation.
How is this different from Sunday School or UMW Circles or Bible Studies or Midweek@First fellowship? All of these settings are important. We need fellowship with the church, we need to learn knowledge and grow in understanding, and simply have fun together! Covenant groups may form from your other existing groups, but we need a smaller, regular, safe and intentional setting to attend to the state of our soul. Covenant groups will bolster other things you may be involved in.
When will groups meet? Groups will meet together weekly in fall and spring 'semesters' of 8-10 weeks at a time (beginning mid-September and early January, respectively). The group will determine the time and place that works best for them- whether in someone's home or at church. During summer, your group may take a break, schedule some occasional get-togethers, or continue meeting as works for your members. Group meetings will last an hour, unless your group has a mutually agreed-upon activity you will do together (walk, craft, trying a new restaurant, fantasy football, serve a meal at Rowan Helping Ministries, etc). This time is intentional time- with an appropriate size group, meetings will last one hour.
But... I really just *can't* meet weekly, can we do something else? Our lives are busy and over-stuffed, even in retirement! It can seem overwhelming to 'add one more thing' to our schedules. Once you join a group, you will likely find that this hour quickly becomes the anchor for you to get through the rest of your week, and you will wonder how you did without. We also encourage you to be creative- is there a group of people you regularly interact with that could become a covenant group with attention to 'How is it with your soul?' Do you sit at the football games to cheer on your children with the same people every week? Do you always go to Sunday lunch with the same group? Could you meet over lunch or supper or something else you all need to do anyway? These are possible covenant groups! However, if your whole group can only manage to meet every other week- do it! This will require great intentionality to make sure that these gatherings occur and everyone is reminded of the gathering. You will probably need to build in some time to check in with one another by phone, text, or email.
What is the 'life cycle' of a group? We expect groups to meet together for an average of 1-2 years. After this time, it is likely that schedules will shift or it will be time to either split or rearrange groups.
Groups will be newly formed or accept new members each September and January.